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Radio AM to FM: February 25, 2005

Locals Only

Years ago, Congress essentially removed what was left of local radio with the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Now Senator John McCain wants to bring some localism back to the airwaves by introducing the "Localism in Broadcasting Act of 2005."

The bill would lower the number of years a station license is valid before requiring renewal from eight to three, would require stations to file detailed reports every quarter stating their public interest efforts, and require companies owning more than one station to prove that the entire chain is meeting its public interest requirements, even if the other stations in the chain are not up for renewal.

Further, the bill directs the full FCC to thoroughly review five percent of license renewals, rather than having staffers essentially rubber-stamp renewals as is the case now.

McCain told Radio and Records that it is time "to bring local back into local broadcasting, and I believe this legislation is a step in the right direction. It will have a small impact on those stations that are currently meeting their public interest obligations, but it should have a large impact on those citizens whose local broadcaster is not meeting its obligation to serve the local community."

I guess that means approximately 99.9999999 percent of the stations in the US would be in big trouble. Or not.

Problem is, there are no real local community interest requirements any more. The FCC and Congress threw them long before I started writing this column in 1987. Additionally, I sincerely doubt that supporters can withstand the force of thousands of lobbyists from Clear Channel, Infinity and Disney, all of whom made radio what it is today, for better or for worse: an overly-researched corporate entity that pushes people toward other entertainment sources such as satellite radio and iPods.

In other words, it may be a good idea, but it hasn't a chance of passing.

Inside Stern

The Securities and Exchange Commission is sending out subpoenas to anyone and everyone involved with Howard Stern's decision to move his program to Sirius Satellite Radio beginning next January.

The SEC is concerned that some insider trading went on among those who knew Stern was thinking about it, before he made his decision public. As of now it appears that employees and management of Sirius are not part of the investigation.

LA Radio Gone

Eight years of were on a hard drive that crashed, according to Don Barrett, master of the site that chronicles the past and present of personalities and stations in or connected with Los Angeles.

There were some backups, so hopefully not all is lost. Subscribers to his site were informed that new postings may be stopped for a few days while repairs and data retrieval are completed.


Copyright © 2005 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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