The election for a new United States President is finally over. In January, billionaire businessman Donald Trump will take over for President Barack Obama. Exactly what that means for radio, or regulations guiding radio, if anything, will not be known for months if not years. Is all-out Republican leadership good for the media ownership rules or foreign ownership? How will the FCC stack up once Chairman Wheeler departs? Could there be even more deregulation? Radio Ink surveyed CEO’s and other executives around the industry to get their opinion on what lies ahead. Here’s what they had to say…
“Trump is, by definition, someone who is almost impossible to predict or pigeonhole. But let’s start with what we know. We have a Republican in the White House who will be naming a new Republican FCC Chair. Certainly, possible candidates for the job are sitting-Republican commissioners Pai and O’Rielly, both of whom have been very friendly to and supportive of radio. Pai has been the point on AM revitalization and has proposed a new C-4 class of FM station, and O’Rielly has been leading the charge against pirate radio stations as well as other issues.
“Also, in recent years the Republicans have generally been more supportive of radio and broadcasters generally. From music licensing, the performance tax, and multiple ownership, broadcasters have found a sympathetic reception from the GOP. It’s no secret that there was no love lost between the NAB and Chairman Wheeler or his predecessor.
“Also, Trump is a media personality (there was even speculation that he might launch his own TV channel) and is probably more familiar with media’s inner-workings than most recent-occupants of the White House. Also, remember that he has a few broadcast clients leasing rooftop tower space on his buildings. But he also appears to be hostile toward excessive media consolidation and we can expect him to take a hard and aggressive look at mergers such as the AT&T-Time Warner.”
Francisco R. Montero
Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C.
“I expect that radio broadcasters will have a good relationship with Trump and his administration. Our hope and expectation should be that the Trump team will be receptive and supportive of radio and the role that radio plays in the local community as a ubiquitous source of free information and entertainment, a viable business that provides jobs, serves the needs of the community, and is a lifeline in times of emergency. These are not political issues, but important to all.”
President & CEO
“A large segment of Trump support seems to have come from small-business owners and operators, the businesses that make up a large part of our radio clientele. We think that at least in the short term we will see an optimism from retail and small businesses that we haven’t seen in the past few years that will have a positive effect on our business.”
Chief Operating Officer
“A President Trump definitely means the odds of foreign ownership interests being introduced is a non-starter. As for the FCC, I’m not even sure how to speculate. I vote Ajit Pai for Commissioner but I’m not sure he’s on the table. One thing is for sure: Indecency fines will go out the window when our own President is the guy dropping the f-bombs on air!”
“President-elect Trump hasn’t really weighed in on FCC or radio matters other than to suggest he would oppose the AT&T/Time Warner merger. Normally, Republicans are more favorable to us on cross ownership and deregulatory matters, but we don’t know where he stands on any of this or who he would put in place. I’m hopeful that his most important domestic issue is convincing Apple that they need to turn on the FM chip for public safety reasons, but I haven’t confirmed that’s his position.”
“The Trump Presidency has the potential to have several positive impacts for radio by unlocking its power which has been artificially restrained by regulation from another, simpler time. We are being strangled by regulation that dates back to the Ford Administration in regards to the cross ownership rules which should be abolished tomorrow. Additionally, when the telecom rules were rewritten in 1996 the digital world in which radio now competes was merely a gleam in Steve Jobs’ and Mark Zuckerberg’s eye. That’s the competition today for ears and dollars more than the radio guy across the street. Digital media has no restrictions as Facebook continues to acquire companies in that space. But to say that a radio company owning nine or 10 or 15 local stations in a given market is anti-competitive is so naive as to be embarrassing. Radio companies can and want to compete with this new powerful challenger but it’s very difficult with one hand tied behind your back.
“Finally, the lack of new capital in radio continues to be a problem. While it’s OK for terror groups to openly recruit American citizens via digital media, local radio cannot have a foreign investment company own a majority part of its capital structure. Again, it is a restriction from another era that should be eliminated. If the foreign ownership rules were eliminated or greatly reduced, the radio business would get a badly needed infusion of capital that would make the entire industry much healthier overnight.”
“The most certain result of a Trump presidency will be uncertainty in regulatory rulings and priorities. Although a Republican administration should mean less regulation, Trump’s antipathy toward concentration of media power and ownership should result in more oversight. I expect the FCC and Justice Department will be less likely to approve mergers and acquisitions. Will Steve Bannon be our next FCC Commissioner or perhaps appointed to the new post of Minister of Propaganda?”
Publisher and CEO
“Political leanings aside, the radio industry has a lot to be happy about when Mr. Trump goes to Washington. First, boring is bad for radio, and the next four years certainly won’t be that. A Trump presidency will stimulate on-air banter, and that will be a very good thing for radio. Second, Trump is likely to raise the profile of radio more so than Clinton would have, since he’s built a fan base via talk shows. That means call-ins to radio stations or hosts from the Oval Office. However, I can’t see his presidency having much of an affect on favorable legislation, except of course the appointment of a new FCC chairman in two years. He’s got more important things to do.”
Borrell & Associates
“If Trump really wants to liberate industry and facilitate entrepreneurship, he should completely overhaul the ownership rules. They are archaic.”
“In the afterglow of a Trump election victory Tuesday, it would be prudent not to expect any overnight turnaround in the thinking of the FCC. Chairman Wheeler is not leaving immediately and it may take time for the new administration to select its choice for Chairman. One can hope that the Commission will re-look at its cross-ownership ban and implement some of the reforms pushed by the two Republican Commissioners in recent years. More focus on helping out the AM band, clearing the way for more minority ownership and lowering the regulatory burdens on radio broadcasters would all be great. However, remember that President-elect Trump was very critical of the media and wanted to try to hold journalists more accountable. This raises First Amendment concerns and whether more government interference is appropriate.”
“Hopefully, a President Trump will stand by his promise to take a hard look at unnecessary and burdensome regulatory requirements faced my small-business owners. As a media owner I would welcome an FCC that is continually reviewing old rules to ensure they are not stagnant and to make sure the Commission is responsive to changes in technology and markets. For once I would love to have a Commission working for our industry that isn’t playing ‘catch up’ and was actually responsive to our needs. It is tiresome to constantly have our marketplace and industry move faster than the body that regulates us.”
“With the election concluded, we are hopeful that our communities and clients will feel more confident about the economy and the future. We are optimistic that we will see spending levels increase. We are also hopeful that a Trump-administration FCC will be more radio-friendly and less heavy with regulation. One that understands and appreciates how important broadcast radio is to local communities.”
“This presidential election was won, in part, through Donald Trump’s uncanny use of free broadcast media, worth billions of dollars. Doubtless it will be the subject of books written by scholars who study this remarkable presidential race. His inner circle includes traditional media professionals who will continue to have his ear, so it will be worth it to all of us to tune in to how he deploys broadcast media for at least the next four years. Trump has awakened the power of rural America, which can only be good news for small- and medium-market radio.”
Blarney Stone Broadcasting