My Opinion On The 1996 Telecom Act



Last week we posted a story about the 1996 Telecom Act, that turns 20 years old in 2016. It generated quite a few comments from our readers and one very long response from former manager Dave Aamodt. Aamodt says deregulation didn’t work out too well at the place he used to run.

by Dave Aamodt
There’s a reoccurring line from a song (in the Michael Douglas movie, The Wonder Boys) that Bob Dylan wrote and sang that goes like this…”I used to care, but things have changed.”

Way back in 1999 when there was still some semblance of sanity in the commercial radio business, I was “good enough” to be a finalist for the RADIO INK-RADIO WAYNE General Manager of the Year award. Gosh, did I become a poor broadcaster within a year’s time or so, as I was not even “good enough” to continue managing the radio stations in Yakima Washington that had been the market’s cash-flow king for more than a decade. Ah yes, I was replaced by a bean-counter. I was replaced by an individual who had never sold an ad; never led a sales team; never programmed a radio station; and, most likely had never been to a tower site. She must have been magnificent with a calculator and a # 2 lead pencil.

Recently I had the opportunity to sit with a former co-worker for a couple hours, of course on company time! Sure, it was a work-week day, yet he seemed to care as much about work that day as Clear Channel cared about doing quality radio in Yakima, Washington back in 2000. Unfortunately he is still trapped in that hell-hole that has passed from Clear Channel …to Gap Broadcasting…to Gap-West Broadcasting…and now to Townsquare Media… since I left. Now the place is like a morgue. Where have all the employees, the good, committed, passionate radio people gone? I bet the place doesn’t even smell like a radio station anymore.

The five-stations I led and managed are now on their fourth G.M. since Clear Channel showed me the door…the heritage rock station that I once managed has morphed from six full-time announcers down to two…the heritage News/Talk station I managed has but three full-time announcers, one of them masquerades as “the” newsperson. It’s amazing how easily you can divorce yourself from your community with a little (make that a lot) voice-tracking and a whole lot of syndicated pablum.

The sales staff that once had a robust 12 sellers plus two passionate sales managers, now has one sales manager and six or seven sellers, depending on the day. Oh, and the sales commissions that at one time were 20% for local direct business, and 15% for agency business have now been scaled back to 12.5% for local business, and 10.5% for local agency business. There’s no budget anymore for a sales consultant. (Wanna buy some radio ads?)

I highly doubt my former Yakima, Washington stations are noticeably different than most small to medium market radio clusters today.

We used to pride ourselves in delivering a quality product for our LISTENERS, and a quality product for our ADVERTISERS. That’s all past tense now. A radio sales consultant that I learned a great deal from back in the late 70’s and early 80’s (the late Jim Williams) often said, “Some people rise to the occasion, others lower the occasion.” It’s pretty obvious that the greedy broadcasters of today like Clear Channel and Cumulus have “lowered the occasion.”

For most of my 30-plus years in the radio business, I enjoyed going to work every day, every week. Now that I’m ten years removed from the business and have re-invented myself, I can say about radio, “I used to care, but things have changed!”

David Aamodt lives in Seattle and can be reached at [email protected]


  1. I teach and run the radio station at a college. I did my first radio shift at 13 in 1980 – light years away from what radio has become: sole focus on the $ and no regard for the audience. I teach students the art of communication through audio, but I believe the audience has been neglected to the point that people have no vested interest in turning on a radio.

    Heed these words, broadcasters: get back your soul and give people a reason to tune in. You saw what happened with newspapers – energize, entertain, and become a part of your listener’s lives, or perish.


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