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Radio AM to FM: June 6, 2003

Media Changes

The Federal Communications Commission voted to relax media ownership rules last Monday, and while the rule changes focus primarily on newspapers and television stations, there will be a few changes in store for radio.

If the rules stand, that is. It appears that some members of Congress took thousands of complaints lodged by the public at least somewhat seriously, and are threatening to block the rule changes through a variety of means from a full veto (actually called a Resolution of Disapproval) to a bill that would reverse the ruling.

Of course that should all be taken with a grain of salt, considering that the whole problem began with Congress and the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which mandated that the FCC review its rules every two years and repeal or modify any that cannot be defended as needed for competition.

If the rules stand, among other things, Infinity wins and Clear Channel loses. Infinity wins because the new rules allow for a company to own two television stations in a market the size of Los Angeles in addition to eight radio stations. Former rules called for a total of eight combined radio and TV stations; the change means that Infinity doesn't have to sell KFWB (980 AM) after all.

Clear Channel loses because the FCC will now count local marketing agreements (LMAs) toward the cap. LMAs are agreements in which one company programs and markets a station for another owner and is the method which Clear Channel uses to control the programming of 14 stations or so in the San Diego area.

Additionally, another rule change affects how a station is counted in a market. Old rules said out-of-town signals -- even weak ones -- can be counted toward the total number of stations in a market. The new rules are based on geography, so Clear Channel could no longer own every commercial station in a particular market as it does in Minot, North Dakota, for example.

Of course the rules grandfather-in any existing condition, so the rule changes won't mean companies would have to sell anything; they just can't do it again.

Could Have Been Worse

The FCC had been considering a rule change that would have allowed ten radio stations to be owned in a market the size of Los Angeles -- as long as 60 stations remained. That idea has been dropped for now.


Clear Channel president Mark Mays released a statement stating that the company is "deeply disappointed" with the FCC vote, and that the commission "chose politics over the public interest."

Sorry, Mark, you're too late with that statement -- they (and Congress) did that in 1996. Or is that what you're referring to?

Reader Response

Last week's question from T. A. Bross regarding a station that played music from the '30s, '40s and '50s brought no less than eight e-mails suggesting that he probably meant KGRB (now KALI, 900 AM) and/or KBOB (now KRCV, 98.3 FM). The stations were co-owned by Robert Burdett and his wife Georgia, at least until their divorce when Georgia got the FM and Robert got the AM. Family infighting caused him to lose control of KGRB just before Mr. Burdett's death, and the station went Spanish in 1996.

Bob Stone and Gary Floyd were among the air personalities, and while the broadcasting equipment was called "antique" by those who saw it, it perfectly matched the era of recordings they played ... including transcriptions of original network big band broadcasts. As reader Lyle Whited of Torrance pointed out, the stations "had a record collection that would make Chuck Cecil envious."


Copyright © 2003 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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