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On Radio: The FCC takes a new look at the diversity of station ownership

May 2, 2007

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SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/tv/314018_radiobeat03.html

On Radio: The FCC takes a new look at the diversity of station ownership

Last updated May 2, 2007 4:32 p.m. PT

By BILL VIRGIN
P-I REPORTER

The Federal Communications Commission is out on the road again with another hearing on the issue of ownership concentration of media properties, particularly in broadcasting. Commissioner Michael Copps, the most persistent critic of efforts to relax ownership rules, used the most recent hearing to make pointed comments about the lack of diversity in ownership or coverage, as well as an overall lack of local content.

If the industry were restructured the way Copps might prefer, would it look something like Seattle-Tacoma?

Here's a list, not necessarily all-inclusive, of the ownership groups that hold two or more radio properties in this market: Entercom, Bonneville International, CBS, Clear Channel, Sandusky, Fisher, Salem, Kris Bennett, Crista Ministries, Bustos, Jean Suh, Seattle Streaming Radio (David Drucker), Second Amendment Foundation, the University of Washington and Pacific Lutheran University.

Beyond those station groups are the single stations owned by individuals, educational establishments (Bellevue and Green River community colleges, Clover Park Technical College, the Seattle, Bellevue, Mercer Island and Gig Harbor school districts), religious organizations and independent community organizations (such as Beethoven Inc.'s KING-FM or Everett's KSER-FM).

Robert Unmacht, a radio industry consultant with iN3 Partners (and who once owned stations in the Northwest), says that while the Seattle-Tacoma market may have a few more players than other markets, the ownership structure isn't all that unusual. "But it is nicely mixed up with a variety of types of owners and formats," he adds in an e-mail.

Number of owners is one way to look at concentration. Market share is another. "In most markets, three to four owners dominate both ratings share and revenue," Unmacht says. "There are always a lot of other stations and groups but the revenue and ratings seem to stick to just a few players." (In some markets, Unmacht notes, Clear Channel has a third of the listeners and half of the revenue.)

For insights on that, Unmacht offers the data compiled by Kagan Research Associates and Inside Radio. As a percentage of estimated 2006 gross revenue, Entercom led the market at 26.4 percent (although that includes the three stations -- KIRO-AM, KTTH-AM and KBSG-FM -- sold to Bonneville International). It was followed by CBS Radio at 21.5 percent of the market, Fisher at 17.6 percent, Sandusky at 12.5 percent, Clear Channel at 9.4 percent, Salem at 2.5 percent and KING-FM at 1.5 percent.

How about minority ownership and service to those communities? The latter is hard to quantify, but the Seattle-Tacoma market does have local African American ownership (the Kris Bennnet stations), local Korean ownership (Jean Suh, with AM stations in Federal Way and Everett) and Sacramento-based Hispanic ownership (Bustos).

In his opening statement for the latest hearing, in Tampa, Copps mentioned one other community for whom lack of coverage of or service to has been a problem in the industry's relentless chase for youth: The elderly. "Talk about a group being disadvantaged and disenfranchised by big national media," Copps said. " These are folks who treasure news about the communities they live in, who value news, and who go out and actually vote."

Copps suggested one way to get the diversity of ownership and increased local service he'd like to see is a shake-up of the FCC's own procedures. "Let's go back to an honest-to-goodness licensing system that doesn't grant slam-dunk renewals, but stops to ask if a license-holder is really doing its job to serve the common good," he said. "All license holders have to do now is basically send in a postcard and that's it. And let's do this license renewal every three years -- the way it used to be -- not every eight years like it is now."

In other radio notes:

  • A follow-up to a recent column on the issue of increased music-royalty rates for Internet broadcasters, which radio stations and webcasters say would discourage or eliminate that medium. The SaveNetRadio coalition reports that the Internet Radio Equality Act has been introduced in Congress. The legislation would reverse the new rate schedule set up by the Copyright Royalty Board and would put Internet royalty rates at the same level as those paid by satellite broadcasters; it also resets rates by non-commercial broadcasters with Web streams. One of the two co-sponsors of the bill is U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash.

     

     

  • Have a hankering for a radio career? The Puget Sound Radio Broadcasters Association is holding a job fair at North Seattle Community College noon-4 p.m. May 15.

     

     

  • State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz and state Republican Chairman Luke Esser are the guests on "Weekday" at 10 a.m. Thursday on KUOW-FM (94.9).

     

     

  • The Metropolitan Opera performs Gluck's "Orpheus and Eurydice" at 10:30 a.m. Saturday on KING-FM (98.1).

     

     

  • Bands performing live on "Audioasis" live from Fremont's High Dive Saturday on KEXP-FM (90.3) include Sneaky Thieves at 6:30 p.m. and Siberian at 8 p.m.

     

     

  • Lizz Sommars' guests on "Conversations" at 6 a.m. Sunday on KISW-FM (99.9), KBSG-FM (97.3) and KKWF-FM (100.7) include Craig Pepin-Donat, author of a book on deceptive advertising in the health and fitness industry, "The Big Fat Health and Fitness Lie."

     

     

  • "StreetBeat," hosted by Tony Benton at 8 a.m. Sunday on KUBE-FM (93.3), looks at the controversy over hip-hop lyrics, an issue raised in the wake of Don Imus' remarks and subsequent firing. Topics to be addressed include the depiction of women in such lyrics, censorship and the role of hip-hop in the community today. Guests include hip-hop artists, community activists and representatives of women's organizations, and will include listener calls.

     

     

  • Tami Kosch interviews Walter Isaacson, author of a new biography of Albert Einstein, on "Community Matters Weekend Edition" at 8 a.m. Sunday on KPTK-AM (1090).

     

     


    P-I reporter Bill Virgin can be reached at 206-448-8319 or billvirgin@seattlepi.com.

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