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April 24, 2014

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07/23/07 Radio's Hill To Climb

Regardless of your political leaning, you must be alarmed by how radio is being targeted on Capitol Hill these days.

An effort — ultimately defeated — to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine was spurred by a recent study that suggests conservative talk radio is prevalent because of the political leanings of radio station owners. The study, conducted by an “independent” think tank, was actually written by a man with a financial interest in two liberal-leaning talk shows. Nonetheless, it caught Congress’ attention.

A bill to authorize new low-power FM stations was recently introduced, another effort lawmakers say will inspire more diverse station ownership and increase representation of voices.

Some in Congress, it appears, don’t like the influence radio has on listeners. Trent Lott talks about a need to fix radio, as do Hillary Clinton and Barbara Boxer. After all, radio is an irritant to Congress; we speak, Americans respond. Consider these examples:

• Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo’s on-air appeals motivated millions of listeners to demonstrate in major cities across the country against immigration law reforms. This movement brought immigration issues to the forefront and forced Congress to deal with it. Congress had a wake-up call. Radio made them face a very real issue, which until this demonstration of power was being ignored.

• When conservative talk hosts like James Dobson speak out against something the right-leaning contingent disagrees with, Congress gets flooded with calls and e-mails.

• Internet broadcasters and some radio broadcasters are flooding Congress with calls, and national media is aggressively covering the proposed royalties to be paid for Internet radio streams. Again, Congress is involved.

• Don Imus, Opie and Anthony, and others have recently raised radio’s profile with continuous negative exposure in the media, resulting in renewed congressional pressure to control what goes out on the air. Al Sharpton has asked the FCC to prohibit use of the “N word,” and regulate use of slurs toward any race or group.

• Speaking of the FCC, Commissioner Michael Copps suggested in a recent New York Times op-ed piece that he wants the FCC to start enforcing its ability to revoke the licenses of stations that don’t effectively serve the public interest.

• The proposed merger between Sirius and XM has raised the issue of radio vs. satellite radio. Legions of lobbyists have been called in to fight the battle, and the NAB and radio are fighting back. Here again, Congress is involved in a radio issue.

With radio at the center of so many important issues in Congress, each of us needs to play a role and not assume the NAB alone will conquer these attacks. Radio is under siege, and our future is dependent on our ability to effectively confront these challenges.

Radio is the voice of the people; it motivates action — and Congress is not happy about it. You have clout with your audience, clout in your community, and clout with your congressional representatives. It’s time to let Congress know that radio won’t stand idly by in the face of these attacks.

So man the battle stations, and prepare for the fight of your life.





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