Does Radio Need More Deregulation?


That’s the big question being debated by NAB members as they try to come up with a plan to present to the FCC as part of the Commission’s Quadrennial review. With a very friendly FCC, this may be a rare opportunity for radio to get exactly what it asks for — if it’s united, that is — and we understand the industry has at least one big player who doesn’t want any more deregulation.

Many broadcasters are hoping the Commission will vote for some sort of increase on the number of stations any one company can own in a market. What that increase should be, it appears, NAB members are not really sure of yet. The argument for more deregulation is that we live in a much different media world today. In addition to fighting for revenue with radio’s traditional opponents like television, print, and billboard, big digital companies like Google and Facebook have come along, unregulated, and swooped in to every market in America and scooped up a lot of the ad revenue. We reported earlier this week that Google alone is outbilling the entire radio industry.

Of course, there are also broadcasters who believe the first round of deregulation in 1996 damaged the industry. They say it allowed companies to buy way too many radio stations, accumulate way too much debt, and resulted in what we see in 2018, radio’s two largest companies in bankruptcy. They also argue that radio’s content suffered as well, with jukebox radio being piped in from corporate syndicators and voice-tracked stations that have no local feel.

Next week, Radio Ink will be running a series of interviews with owners to get their views on deregulation and what they would like to see, or not see. Our first interview will be Monday with Galaxy CEO Ed Levine who has been very vocal about the need to lift the caps. We will also be running a poll to get your thoughts on whether you think we need more deregulation or not.

The FCC is expected to vote on this issue in June.


  1. radio stations need to create local formats with content.that will serve their communities.
    the radio owner doesn not have to spend a fortune to do it, but he need to learn how to do it efficiently.

    i will give you my example:

    I am programming a low power fm in greeley, co ksik-lp 95.3 fm.

    i program, produce, promote, do the morning show, and sell advertising (underwritting) with out the nessecity to bring any satelite or network content.

    our budget is small, but even with an small budget, you can do it. and no, you dont have to hire a huge staff to be local and be succesfull.

    for me, my two biggest allies are my computer scheduling software and the music. if you have very good music to atrract the mass, with a good computer scheduling aoftware is enough to create local content with out hiring an entire stuff, but yes, you need onyl one requirement: you need to know how to master almost to perfection all the aspects of radio: programming, production, air time, promotions, and sales!!

  2. Let me get this straight. Radio needs to drastically lower ad rates, run fewer commercials, and hire seven full-time DJs, 4 part-time DJs, and a 10 person News department. Yeah, that’s happening.

  3. More Deregulation will be the last nail in the cuffing to burry the radio industry into further Greed, envy, and unprecedented corruption in the hands of a few big sharks who’s GREED consumes every thing!

    Does the FCC wants Clear Channel to add another 1000, 2000, or even more radio stations to their bankrupted portafolio?

    Do they want Cumulus to keep accumulating more radio stations and more debt?

    Social Media its killing radio industry because radio is over priced, it does not have an efficient way to measure, and at least quote the potential advertiser with an actual and realistic amount of listeners meanwhile at Google or facebook, you have all those features for a fraction of the money that it would cost you to run that campaign on radio, and they yield 10, 20, or even 30 times better results then radio for a fraction of what it may cost at radio!

    How much money do you need to Advertise for a week at least 10 times per day at any radio station in Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, or New York?
    With the cost on one Ad at any of those radio stations, you may run a very succesfull campaing on Google or Facebook with very, very good results!

    On the other hand, How many times have you heard of horrible stories of local advertisers loosing fortunes thanks to unscrupulous radio stations that charged too much with little or no results for their campaigns!!
    How many times the radio sales men sold a remote for 2,500.00, 3,000, and no one showed up to that fail remote>?

    I know a guy who has 100,000 dollars SUV’s as a requirement for all their sales people, they charge a fortune for their ads, and I have the testimony of dozens of Advertisers who lost thousands on this guy over priced radio station. He became very wealthy at the expense of many people who were manipulated and fooled to buy a product that costed ten or twenty times the results it yielded.
    All those merchants are now very happily advertising their products and services FOR FREE on social media!!! And this guy may have his expensive SUV’s repoed very soon because he haven’t lowered his over priced spots! But, if you give this guy or other people like him the chance to own as many stations as he will, I promise you that our radio industry will go into a free nose dive that will barrie the Radio industry into the hands of a few who in exchange will kill the localism, creativity, and independent opportunity only offered by local radio stations and small radio groups.

    The Way to compete with social media is to offer a better product at a better price, and YIELD RESULTS NOT LOSSES!

    • Your post is filled with a lot of false information. No, the FCC does not want iHeart to own 1000 more stations. No they don’t want Cumulus to accumulate more stations and more debt. But why should companies be penalized for owning weak AM stations that count against their ownership cap. That is the rule that’s likely to be changed. Because given a choice between owning a 5K AM that no one listens to, or an FM that has a chance, an owner will sell or shut down the AM. The FCC has no plan for AMs that no one wants to own, and there are increasingly a lot of them.

      I agree with this statement:

      “The Way to compete with social media is to offer a better product at a better price, and YIELD RESULTS NOT LOSSES!”

      That’s correct, but you can’t do that with regulation. The fact is that radio stations are competing against unregulated media, and the unregulated media is growing. It’s not because it’s a “better product,” either. And not one of the companies I listed are looking to own regulated media. It’s not because they can’t afford it, but because they have no reason to own broadcasting when they can make more money with the internet. That says all you need to know. The minute Amazon or Apple buys an FM station, let me know.

      • i have two examples for you of why i stronlgy disagree with your opinion:

        example 1:
        because the street fights have no regulation, and the are more popular then boxing, lets erase all the rules of boxing, so the fighters of boxing can kill them selves with a trow to the nuts. no, it does not work in that way. street fighting is out of the juridiction of the boxing organizations, but if you want to belong on the boxing federationd, you need to ovey the rules of the game (regulation)

        Example: Because the hot dog parlor in the street who has no food license, and he ousells the local restaurant, now lets deregulate all the health permits, so the local retaurant could compete with the unlicenced hot dog parlor.

        well, let me tell you: it does not work in that way.

        the radio spectrum is not the internet spectrum. those are completly different realms, and further deregulating the radio dial, it will further worse the quality and competitiviness of radio as an industry who lost its tracks thanks to a few major players who exchanged the quality of their signals for the convinience and savings of automatisations that destoyed the biggest atraction of radio: creativity and localism.

        the internet has its own challenges. despite how popular pandora, and spotify may be, those are not profitable business models yet. and the radio industry has not done a good job creating good content, localism, and a competitive producto blame their problems on google, facebook, pandora, or spotify. peoplego to those platforms because radio, as it is, really sucks!!

      • the NAB wants the FCC to completly eliminate the cap on the amount of signals a company may own in any market.

        if right know if clear channel owns to many AM radio stations, no one prevents them from selling them, but even with their bankrupt jukeboxes, does clear channel or cummulus have sold any properties?

        the answear is NO! At the countrary, if the fcc may allow it, they will get as many signal as they can not afford. the reason, to have total control of the spectrum and the content to control the masses. thats the harsh and crude reality.

        • “the NAB wants the FCC to completly eliminate the cap on the amount of signals a company may own in any market.”

          That’s not true. Show me where they have said that.

          “the radio spectrum is not the internet spectrum.”

          Huh? What are you talking about?

          “the radio industry has not done a good job creating good content”

          Describe all the “good content” on Pandora & Spotify. They don’t create original content at all. They’re just a music platform. You’re insisting on rules and regulations for radio, while the internet can do whatever they want. That’s not fair. You think more rules will make good content, at the same time Pandora has no rules. You can’t regulate personal taste. People want what they want whether it’s good or bad.

          • “the NAB wants the FCC to completly eliminate the cap on the amount of signals a company may own in any market.”

            That’s not true. Show me where they have said that.

            Instead of being so agressive and trying to make me look stupid, you need to read and better inform your self:

            I will never writte nothing in Radio INK if I don’t have the facts:
            Read it! Google it! Its all over the FCC newsfeeds!
            NAB, Sinclair Defend FCC Dereg to Court
            Ask to be heard in Prometheus stay request
            Sinclair, Tribune, Prometheus, FCCFeb 2, 2018

            “the radio spectrum is not the internet spectrum.”
            NO, They are not. That’s why the FCC can not regulate Pandora, or Spootify. Is like the FCC trying to regulate the amount of songs that you have on your iphone or ipod. Thats your own stuff. If you upload it and share it in the internet, fine. But if you open up a pirate frequency and you play your beloved music, the FCC will be knocking on your door with a big fine.
            It is like the Department of Agriculture trying to Regulate the guy who make customs cackes just because they regulate the wheat when it is in the growing in the fields.

            Same thing on Radio, The FCC regulates many aspects of the Radio Industry, but when it comes down to content, as long as you don’t cause or disrespect the audiences, the FCC had no authority to force you to play this artist, this song, or this new music record release.

            That’s why they can not regulate Spotify and others because they are nested in the Internet Network as content available on demand, but not as providers of spectrum or bandwidth.

            Huh? What are you talking about?
            Read what I said above. That’s what I am talking about.

            “the radio industry has not done a good job creating good content”
            Do you call good content the same song produced in New York with a disposable artist who’s record label has paid millions to the indies to corrupt the PD’s and the Radio owners, to they garbage can get airplay in all their Networks despite if the song has any commercial value to even be scheduled in the play lists?

            Entire Radio Networks make up their Playlist in that way. The same song that you hear in Los Angeles, its played at Houston, New York, and Tampa just because iHate Radio will have that stinky artist performing on their coming concert!

            The Corruption of the Radio is what I call bad content!

            Do you call good content those Radio talk shows talking shit about minorities and using the radio to divide the people and put one agains the other?

            Describe all the “good content” on Pandora & Spotify.
            Pandora and Spotify are not Radio. Radio has the responsibility to give a service to the people because the Airwaves belong to the People! They own the Spectrum (THE PEOPLE)! while padora is a platform with storage of music that you can listen on demand while radio does not offer nothing on demand on the airwaves. If you play shit all they long, the listener has to listen to your shit all they long, or else, he may go to Pandora to choose his own play list, so he can scape from the stupidity of the Radio Status Quo.

            They don’t create original content at all. They’re just a music platform.
            I never said nothing about Pandora or Spotify Content, I said that many radio stations, many have terrible ugly corrupted playlist that don’t compete with better music found in the Digital Platforms.

            You’re insisting on rules and regulations for radio, while the internet can do whatever they want.
            In the same way you can do what ever you want with the pictures and songs, and videos on your own private device. Its your own. If people would like to access your iphone to listen to a beutifull song that you wrote and you are the only one that has it, if you allow your friends to listen it, the FCC can not prevent you from doin it. Does it? So why the FCC would prevent Pandora or Spotify from sharing their content with the users?

            That’s not fair.
            It is not fair because Radio Over Slept on they arrogance, and they confidence that they were the only kid in the block, but they are not. The internet changed the rules of the games for all the industries of this plannet. All of them. Radio, Tv, News Papers, Insurances, Agriculture, Madicine, Every single industry has been affected in one way or another by the internet for good or for bad.

            Mexico used to have only two giant Tv Network TELEVISA and TV Asteca, they are both almost bankrupt because people was tired to the bones of manipulated news, obsolete soap operas, and political manipulations of those two networks, but when the internet came, now Netflix, Roku, and other new technologies based on the internet framework are emerging and conquering the peoples eyes and minds. It is what is is my friends. Netflix offers content that people rather watch than an ugly soap opera from Televisa.

            You think more rules will make good content,
            If you allow more people with the heart and passion to create a quality product, more competition will force the radio industry to offer better options. Every single DJ, every single Market, every single radio station has great minds who can create incredible things for their local stations, but how are they going to do it if Ihearth Media, Comulus, and others have most of their signal hooked to a dummy automated satellite feed.

            at the same time Pandora has no rules.
            They don’t have to because they are not a broadcasting radio station. They are a platform with music on demand.
            Its like the Tv Broadcasting industry tring to Regulate youtube. It can not happend in the same way Broadcasting TV’s get regulated.
            Those platforms have their own policies and terms, but those have nothing to do with FCC regulation.

            You can’t regulate personal taste.
            No, you can’t. But you can regulate the amount of Radio stations own by the same owner, so his own personal taste can not be spread more then the radio stations he is entitled to own.

            People want what they want whether it’s good or bad.
            In the entertainment business, or broadcasing business, people wants to be entertained with stuff they like and most of the time, that stuff has to be of their own taste. If it is of good commercial popular taste, they will like it. If it is of bad ugly empty taste, people will dislike it.

            If you see on youtube, the most popular entertained, funny, real, original videos; are the ones with more likes. While content with out those original factors, get many dislike hands.

            The Job of a Program Director like me, is to identify what is a product that will fit with a huge amount of people, so it will be profitable. I have people who asks me why I don’t play cuban Salsa, and I told them because there are 0 Cuban in Greeley, CO! while the 45% are Mexicans, so my format is Regional Mexican.

            If they may ask me to design a new format in New York or Miami, There I may choose the best Cuban music.

            Good Content is what connects with the big masses hearts! Bad Content is what’s get pushed by force, so the Masses may end up liking it or totally hating it in the long term!

            Good Content always sells while bad content always fail!!

          • “I will never writte nothing in Radio INK if I don’t have the facts:”

            I read the article you linked and it didn’t say the NAB wants to eliminate the cap. The article is about Sinclair, which is a TV company, not radio. But it also doesn’t say it wants to completely eliminate the cap. The NAB has NEVER said it wants to completely eliminate ownership caps. And the FCC isn’t considering doing that anyway. So you’re wrong about that.

      • let them shut down the am small am station …if the couldnt make a profit on it they shouldnt have bought opens the door(and license) for someone to get a start in the business without fighting a greedy corporation

        • Because of current ownership laws, there are dozens of iHeart, Cumulus, and Entercom stations in trusts that are available for sale at very low prices. No one is rushing to buy them. A lot of them are in big cities, like Boston and Seattle. Why? Where are all the small local owners who want to buy AM radio stations?

          • Where are they? I monitor every day the radio stations placed for sale every day, and So far, i hate media, and Cumulus are not selling nothing of their junk. Nothing. Or pleace list the ones that are for sale, so I can find out more.

          • “Where are they?”

            Look up the Ocean State Trust and Aloha Trust. The FCC required iHeart, Cumulus, and Entercom to put a bunch of stations that were over the ownership limits in trusts. There are about 50 stations in those trusts, all required to be sold.

  4. The fact is that every day we read that the public is listening to Pandora, Spotify, Google, Amazon, Apple, and lots of other streaming services, and NONE of them are regulated by the FCC. Pandora can start up millions of individual radio stations, and none of them have to be licensed or regulated. And somehow, the public finds them and listens. The days of licensed radio stations subject to government regulations are over. FM radio stations are competing against unlicensed streaming services for audience. That’s a fact. If the government isn’t going to license or regulate the internet, it shouldn’t license or regulate broadcast. So the government can cling to the past, and force FM to comply with its regulations, or watch as the companies who own those stations transition their business to the unlicensed world, just as video media companies have left broadcast ownership and now start their own video streaming platforms that have more viewers than traditional video. It’s happening regardless what the FCC says or does.

    • people.go to pandora and spotify because in those platforms they cand do the only one thing commecial radio as it is, cant: play good music!!

      how many consultants have enriched them selves with radio air plays?
      how many PDs and radio owners see their play list as inventories of cash flows from the record labels and artists?

      they radio stations stink becaus they play rotten music that no one wants to torture their ears with, so people go to the places where they can listen some thing they like.

      corruption has rotten the radio playlist for decades, and corruption lead to deregulate the very same foundationd that were preventing corruption from taking over the antire industry, and now the fcc wants to deregulate even further?
      come on!!!

      no body wants AM radio stations, guve them to me, and i promiss i will make them profitableee!!

      if i have a clunker am radio station with great unique content, people will go for it.

      back in the 90’s, Emilio Ascarraga had 150,000 watt AM radio station in San Luis Potosi playing classic music with cero revenue on it. he waw loosing a fortune on the electical bill, so he leased the signal to the owner of multimedios estrella de oro od monterrey, the most succesful radio owner of those days, Mr Ascarraga told the mumtimedios owner: you provide the content, and i provide the technical part of it, what ever you make in five years, it will be yours.

      they played on that monster popular music that no one else was playing, and it was a hugr it! when the lease expired, Mr Ascarraga bought the format rights, and it became one of the most succesfull Regional Mexican formats until this days!

      so, AM has a lot of potential, but it needs brains to make it atracitive once again.
      and i bet if more deregulation passes, more AM radio licenses and towers will be abandoned bucause of the stupidity of owners who have no clue hoe to design formats to atract the listeners, the advertisers, and the cash flow.

  5. 1996 was a bad turning point for radio. What’s done is done and there is no turning back. You see, the FCC believes too much of a good thing is really a VERY GOOD THING. In reality, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Deregulation will continue.

  6. Today radio is regulated by IRS rules, Home Land Security EAS rules, Music Licensing rules, FCC rules
    and State and Local laws with our mentioning popular opinion and social rules. Yeah some deregulation
    in requirements to report, post, and comply could help radio fill a void that is opening in local news, and
    information the demise of print is imposing on our communities. Just saying

  7. Deregulation of 1996 did so much harm to the radio industry. FCC neglect of regulation of man made noise hasbeen equally damaging. Radio is still the best medium to serve the local community. The Commission must step up and do the responsible thing for our industry. Just my 2 cents.


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