WASHINGTON, D.C.—The 1996 Telecom Act spurred a round of radio industry consolidation, but in the two decades since that landmark legislation became law, many radio insiders feel new action is needed to address how many stations one broadcaster can own in a single market. Some within the industry feel the Telecom Act needs modernizing to keep pace with recent technological innovations.
However, despite some initial promises to examine the radio station ownership issue, Congress doesn’t appear interested in addressing such updates at the present time, according to a new article at Inside Radio.
Womble Carlyle Telecom attorney John Garziglia tells Inside Radio that changes to the radio station ownership caps are likely to come from civil litigation, rather than Congressional action.
“I do not think that Congress has the motivation at the moment to take up radio issues when there are so many other larger issues looming,” he said. “And the FCC, even though now the majority party in control has changed, has a staff that well remembers being scarred by trying to justify various ownership limits which is pretty close to impossible and always has been.”
Furthermore, Garziglia said he believes the legal justification for the radio station ownership cap isn’t likely to hold up in court.
For example, one radio executive noted to Inside Radio that his broadcasting competition isn’t just from other radio stations—it includes digital giants such as Google and Facebook, who face no restrictions about how much content they can provide to a single market.
But Garziglia also tells Inside Radio that some within the radio industry are wary of changing the ownership cap rules for fear of harming small and mid-sized owners.
“More than 20 years later, there are many in our industry who still believe that the elimination of the national radio ownership cap was not intrinsically good for radio as a whole, and that a further relaxation of ownership rules might simply allow the bigger to get bigger while harming all other owners,” Garziglia said.