In the next couple of months, the Federal Communications Commission will be reviewing the multiple ownership rules currently in effect for the radio and television industry. The Commission is required to do this every two years.
These rules have been a disaster, particularly for those of us who have chosen radio as a lifetime career. What we are seeing repeatedly are one or two large companies entering a market, purchasing the majority of the stations in that market, choosing one “Flagship” station as the moneymaker, then relegating the remaining stations to satellite, simulcast, or automation. This results in the dismissal of the staffs of those previously independently owned stations, and the consolidation of the remaining staff members into one, much smaller group. While the bulk of the staff hits the unemployment line, the surviving members find that they are required to take on the work and responsibility of ex-staffers, often with no increase in compensation, and in some cases, at a lower rate of compensation.
The people that have been impacted the most by these unfair ownership rules are the people who have been in radio the longest, targeted primarily by the reasoning, (and justly so) that experience commands a higher wage. In the past, when the inevitable happened, it was possible to go across town and work for the competition—what was jokingly called a “lateral career move.” However, in the majority of markets these days, that is no longer an option because the so-called “competitor” is owned or managed by the same large company. So, in order to feed our families, while doing what we know and enjoy, we are faced with the prospect of ripping up roots, leaving friends and family, and moving our lives across the country. More often than not, we will spend a fortune on relocating and endure the stress involved with moving to a strange city, only to find ourselves in very much the same situation as the one we just left.
If this story sounds familiar, and you think it’s as unfair as many of us do, then now is the time to act. I urge you to write or e-mail the FCC on this matter in all haste. The review process has already begun. There will be many high-dollar lobbyists involved on behalf of the mega-companies. The FCC needs to be aware how these rules have had a deeply negative impact on our ability to earn a living in radio. They have all the money. All we have are our own voices and the horror stories about consolidation—AND THEY NEED TO BE HEARD!
While you’re at it, drop a note to the members of the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Telecom Subcommittee, and let them know how you feel about the multiple ownership rules as well. The more people in the beltway that hear about our concerns the better.
Bill from REACT
Radio Employees Against Corporate Takeovers.