November 27, 2015

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Rage Against The Corporate Radio Machine
The Future of Music Coalition held a teleconference Wednesday to coincide with the release of a report entitled “False Premises, False Promises: A Quantitative History of Ownership Consolidation in the Radio Industry.” According to FMC data, radio ownership consolidation at the national and local levels has led to fewer choices in radio programming and harmed the listening public and those working in the music and media industries, including deejays, programmers and musicians.

Among the report's claims:

The top four radio station owners have almost half of the listeners and the top ten owners have almost two-thirds of listeners.

The “localness” of radio ownership – defined as ownership by individuals living in the community – has declined between 1975 and 2005 by almost one-third.

Fifteen formats make up three-quarters of all commercial programming, and different radio formats sometimes overlap up to 80% in terms of shared songs.

Niche musical formats like Classical, Jazz, Americana, Bluegrass, New Rock, and Folk are provided largely by smaller station groups.

Across 155 markets, radio listenership has declined over the past fourteen years, a 22% drop since its peak in 1989.

On hand for the teleconference was guitarist Tom Morello of Audioslave, and formerly of Rage Against the Machine. A staunch anti-consolidation critic, Morello charged, "The Wal-Mart-ization of radio is bad for music and worse for America, in that it provides much less diversity in culture and opinions on the airwaves and provides the opportunity for censorship that can be very damaging.”

Reflecting back to his time with Rage Against The Machine, Morello said, “It was the kind of band that had never really existed before. Some very brave stations around the country took a chance to play us on the radio, which gave us a foothold to help launch our careers and inject into culture ideas, opinions and kinds of music that hadn’t existed there before. A band like Rage Against the Machine would stand no chance today, is my opinion, given the narrowed parameters of radio programming. (The band) benefited from a time when radio took more risks."

As for his current band, Morello acknowledged that Audioslave, “has benefited greatly from consolidation as one of the few bands that has made it through the narrower gates and the fewer gatekeepers. And I’ve seen firsthand as my musician friends have fallen by the wayside because they have not gotten the weight of the favors, and the payola, and the golden nuggets that my current band has been able to enjoy. So I’ve been able to see it very much from both sides.”

FMC Research Director Peter DiCola, the report's author, said, “When Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the radio industry changed drastically. Historical data from the industry reveal unprecedented consolidation and show that the Telecom Act has backfired in terms of the FCC’s goals of competition, localism, and diversity in radio. Commercial radio now offers musicians fewer opportunities to get airtime and offers the public a narrow set of overlapping and homogenized programming formats.”

The complete report is posted at www.futureofmusic.org.

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