Another Big Push For More Deregulation


The CEO’s and President’s of ten radio companies have joined forces to pen a long letter to the radio industry in full support of more deregulation. The group want to keep the pressure on the FCC as it considers lifting ownership caps during its upcoming quadrennial ownership review. They also want to rally the industry to their side. Not every station or group owner is in favor of more deregulation, most notably iHeartMedia. Here’s the full letter the group drafted and has asked all the radio trades to publish…

In recent months, the Federal Communications Commissions (“FCC”) has signaled that, after more than two decades, they are open to revisiting the outdated rules that govern the local ownership of radio stations. Because of this unique opportunity, our industry, working with the National Association of Broadcasters (“NAB”), undertook a project to develop a radio industry proposal that could be presented to the FCC ahead of its 2018 quadrennial ownership review to help frame the next generation of these rules.

Months of work by NAB Board members and staff recently culminated in the NAB’s proposal to modify the current rules, which was sent to the FCC’s Media Bureau Chief on June 15th. Prior to its submission to the FCC, this proposal had been developed and vetted by a special Committee of the NAB Board formed for this purpose, as well as by the full Radio Board itself. At both the Committee and Board level, the proposal to revise the ownership limits was debated and voted upon openly, and, at both levels of review, it passed with a substantial majority of support (it bears clarifying that what some have pejoratively characterized as “a faction” was in fact a substantial majority).


As we believe this is an issue of paramount importance for the future of the radio industry, we have taken an active part in these discussions, and, like others, we have further studied the issues involved so that we may come to a carefully considered decision. We wanted to share our conclusions in this regard, in the hope that it helps to clarify the public dialogue on this topic. To be clear, we are fully supportive of and have endorsed the NAB proposal.

It might be helpful to start with a little history as to why these rules exist. Regulation of public airwaves emerged in the 1930’s out of an effort to manage interference across the radio spectrum. Broadcast media ownership rules were introduced in 1940: the driving force then, as it has been for the many modifications that have taken place in the last eighty years, was the government’s desire to ensure that no one entity could exert too much influence over the flow of information, either nationally or in a single community.
Reflecting the dynamic nature of media competition, these rules have undergone several modifications over the eight decades of their existence, each time to relax common ownership limits to reflect the competitive impact from changing technology. The proposal that the NAB sent to the FCC is simply the latest logical development in a conversation that dates back to 1940 and which, for the past eighty years and in each modification, has only been moving in one direction.

The current numerical ownership limits were established by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. In the twenty-two years since then, the emergence of digital and social media, not to mention the pervasive use of smartphones and other devices, has fundamentally disrupted how information is disseminated locally and nationally. The competitive landscape for information, as well as audio entertainment, has changed dramatically. In radio, our main competitors (Facebook, Google, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, and SiriusXM, for example) did not even exist in 1996. And yet, our rules are based on that era.


Given the vastly different competitive landscape in the information marketplace, it follows logically that the rules that were intended to limit advantage and undue influence must themselves adapt or be eliminated altogether. The rules that were originally intended to level the playing field for other competitors eighty years ago are now a constraint that inhibits radio’s ability to compete, as well as attract capital and investment. After all, on the internet, none of our competitors are subject to any of these limitations, nor were Sirius and XM subject to similar limitations to prevent their merger ten years
ago. In addition, we would note that there are several other important factors that further reinforce our decision on this topic:
– First, ownership restrictions limit the ability of local stations to take advantage of economies of scale that could bolster the industry’s financial position at a time of unprecedented competition. For radio companies to continue to serve the public interest by providing local news, local sports, local weather, and essential emergency programming, these companies need to be economically viable entities, free to compete for assets, capital, and resources on a level playing field with their competitors.
– Second, common ownership will drive more format diversity, as the NAB noted in its letter to the FCC. This serves the best interests of both audiences and advertisers. Companies will use their additional stations to experiment and develop new and micro-targeted formats, rather than compete with their existing stations. These new formats will serve specific communities and demographics in ways that most of commercial radio does not do today. This will help radio serve its audience better by providing greater consumer choice, serve its advertisers better by offering broader audience reach, and help our industry compete with the virtually unlimited channels and micro-targeted audio audiences offered by digital and satellite competitors.
– Finally, while elimination of the cross-ownership restrictions between radio, TV, and newspapers by the FCC in 2017 was a welcome and long overdue step (particularly for the newspaper business, where we believe this step, if enacted a decade ago, could have helped to save hundreds of companies and thousands of jobs), it seems counter-intuitive to us that radio companies are now allowed to expand into other forms of media, but not to expand our offerings in radio itself. Cross-ownership only makes sense if it is also accompanied by the opportunity and choice to expand within our own industry, and in the form of media that we know best.

At the same time, we are of course aware of the arguments against modification of the ownership rules and have considered them carefully in arriving at our conclusions. We have heard an argument that the NAB’s proposal will hurt the value of AM radio. As significant owners of AM radio stations, we have an abiding interest in the value of these assets. Nevertheless, our self-interest does not override the fact that media ownership rules were not intended to provide economic subsidies or determine winners and losers, and to use them in that way today, to advance the interest of one class or company in particular, is a perversion of their intent. Rather, the best way to ensure the value of AM stations, and to deliver for the listeners of this service, is to provide essential and important programming, and unique and valuable benefits to advertisers. In that regard, we can point to several AM stations that continue to be successful: Entercom’s WINS and WCBS in New York and
WBBM in Chicago, as well as iHeart Media’s KFI in Los Angeles. These were four of the top ten billers in our industry in 2017.

Of course, it is also a reality that many AM stations are struggling in today’s competitive environment. We think that the FCC has already addressed this issue through its AM Revitalization Effort and has given AM stations, and their owners, every available opportunity to ensure their success and longevity, short of stepping in to interfere with the functioning of a free market. This would not be the appropriate role of a regulatory agency, nor would it comport with the free market principles to which we subscribe.

We have also heard an argument that common ownership offers no benefit to the advertiser. We disagree, and, as noted above, believe that the benefits of comon ownership that accrue to the listener in the form of greater format diversity will also benefit the advertiser. Our experience in competition with digital media has been that a key point of differentiation between offline and online advertising is the latter’s ability to micro-target audiences for an advertiser, based on very specific audience characteristics. We know that advertisers value this capability, and that it drives dollar shifting from radio to digital. In conjunction with investment into and development of our own data collection and advanced audience insights, the prospect of being able to offer a greater number of unique formats, along with the localism that is our medium’s hallmark, will enhance radio’s ability to present a competitive advertising solution versus digital and social media. Yes, it is better for our advertisers if we can deliver a better product.

Complete agreement on any issue is difficult, but given the opportunity before the FCC right now, it was vital that we find consensus. Therefore, we are pleased that the NAB was able to develop a proposal that represented the consensus of a substantial majority of its Board of Directors, and we thank the staff members of the NAB and the members of the Ownership Committee (that was formed for this purpose) for their service to the industry. Anything short of providing the FCC with a framework for reforming the radio ownership rules would have been an abdication of the job that the NAB and its Board are obligated to perform.

We respect dissenting views on this topic and hope that our thoughts, as expressed in this letter, have added to the public discourse. We know that all opinions are the result of strong feelings about what is in the best future interests of this industry, which we all love.

Bob Proffitt
President & CEO
Alpha Media

Jeffrey D. Warshaw
Founder & CEO
Connoisseur Media

Jeffrey H. Smulyan
Chairman & CEO
Emmis Communications

Michael Wright
Midwest Communications

Thomas A. Walker
Mid-West Family Stations

Beth Neuhoff
President & CEO
Neuhoff Communications

Mary Quass
President & CEO
NRG Media

Russell Perry
Perry Publishing and Broadcasting

Dhruv A. Prasad and Bill Wilson
Townsquare Media

John Zimmer
Zimmer Radio of Mid Missouri, Inc.


  1. The Ultra Racist President TRUMP wasn’t elected by the public, he was elected by cheating, by manipulation, by the direct interference of the RUSSAN using the illuminati owned Social Media called FACEBOOK!
    And more then 50% or 150 million people are against him!!! So, Not all the people elected Mr. Racist TRUMP! He was elected by a flawed and Obsolete voting System called the ELECTORAL COLLEGE which means that the candidate with more votes its not necessary the ones who wins, but the one with more STUPID ELECTORAL POINTS!! He Won by POINTS!!! Not by the majority of votes!!
    Hillary have millions of more Genuine votes then TRUMP, but the old and obsolete system defeat her!! So, stop the bullshit rhetoric that TRUMP was elected by the people! F…. You!!!! He was not! Your old and obsolete phony DEMOCRACY was the system who game him the white house, not the PEOPLE!!

    If the Democrats wouldn’t be a bunch of sissies afraid of a World War 3 conflict with PUTIN, they would indict Trump and Putin’s regime for their violation of the USA’s National Security and Elections System, and for the violation of the core principals of our constitution which strongly prohibits the interference of foreign nations in our election system! What Russia Did, it’s a clear provocation of a declaration of WAR!!!

    But, we will leave the political topic for another day. The fact is that This Stupid Idiot that we have as president was elected DEMOCRATICALLY. He was elected by a system manipulated by the ELITE, and no that he is in the white house, he has to pay the favors back. He will favor his friend best interests in the form of HUGE FAVORS by unleashed a Tsunami of DEREGULATION in many aspects of our Nation’s Principals.
    For Example: Recently they wiped out most of the Banking Rules that may prevent another HUGE real state Bubble because they, including him self, they want to crash the markets, so they can profit from it!!

    They will allow the FCC to lift the ownership rules, so many radio broadcasting groups will get in debt in the effort and thirst to buy more properties, then when the Administration think its time, they will crash the entire market leaving those radio owners stranded with huge amounts of debt and not option but to sell on pennies on the dollar. Guess who will profit from this huge devaluated Radio Stations bubble burst bonanza, THEY!! Trump and Their friend will be there with wheel barrels of cash to buy out all those bankrupt distressed Radio owners!!

    They are doing the same shit on Health Care. he has taken resources from the poor, so the ELITE could became ELI-TIERS profiting from the most vulnerable out there! What a shame!!!

    In the mining, Oil and Gas Industry, he has bring an ARMAGEDDON of policies that will benefit his comrades, but at the expense of the most vulnerable people on the bottom.

    They know very well that Radio is a precious resource that can function despite other modern technologies, or major disaster, so they want to own as many radio venues as they possibly can. But first, they need to change the rules of the game like they have done it many times before!

    So, Fellow Radio Owners, Remember that the Radio Air Waves, legally, belong to the people. Not even the FCC. and no one but the People, has the rights of the Air Waves! You, as the radio owner, you own a license to operate a finite resource that belongs the the American Public. So, you have the responsibility to fight and protect the best interest of that finite and precious resource. A resource that even becomes more valuable in times of evil government regimes like the Donal TRUMP! Regimes who love to control the Media, so no one will criticize, denounce, or even question their actions! The fewer Radio owners out there, the easiest to control the Radio airwaves, and the easier to influence a few major Radio players in their favor!

    This is big, this is not a simple idea. The American Public has the right to know what’s cooking out there in the evil plans of the Elite Illuminati Agenda where they are trying to get full control of all the Radio Resources by lifting the only few breaks still out there called the Ownership Rule Caps.

    Only time will prove me right if the ownership rules get wiped out by this Evil Racist Illuminati Movement. All the Dictatorships of the world including Chavez in Venezuela, Hitler in Germany, and others, they took full control of the Main Media.

    P.D. Why I say Donald Trump is racist? Because he always talks about deporting Latinos from Mexico, Central, or South America, but he has never talk about deporting any illegal and undocumented from Russia, Europe, or Other White Skin Country! That’s RACISM!!! Racism it’s a despicable act of EVIL only practiced by the evil among evil souls on hearth!! … and DONALD TRUMP Is one of them!!

    • “So, Fellow Radio Owners, Remember that the Radio Air Waves, legally, belong to the people.”

      That’s more of a philosophical concept than a legal one. The spectrum is a public resource, and its use is determined by Congress. However, the Congress has approved the FCC to sell big portions of the radio spectrum to the telecom companies. So if its possible for AT&T to own public spectrum, it’s also possible for iHeart to do the same. If the public wants to apply for an LPFM, as you did, that’s fine. But that’s really where the rights of the people end. And the fact is that LPFMs didn’t exist in 1996, which is why radio companies are justified in asking for changes in ownership laws now.

      • IF enough People Calls the FCC with complaints about any given AM, FM, or TV License for obscenity or any other credible well documented reason; The FCC has the right to Confiscate that license and give it to another entity who may do a better use of those air wave resources. THATS THE BROADCASTING LAW!!

        It may have never happened in USA history (Not that I know), but Technically it can. The Air Waves Belong to the Public Despite the very smart bureaucratic Artificial tactics to rob our common people of such powerful resource.

        Your are right, The FCC its there by Congress, but the FCC Chair Members are not Democratically elected officials. They are a bunch of bureaucrats appointed by the current administration who’s only goal its to create wealth for the people who helped them to get control of the white house. Wealth for a few big sharks in the form of Unimaginable Radio Licenses’s Gluttony!

        The question is: How many is enough if the FCC will allow no limits on the number of Radio signals an individual may own?

        Philosophically, or Legally; The People has the right to know what’s just about to happen to one of the most important ways to Communicate: RADIO!!
        It will fall in the Dirty, Greedy, Stinky jacked hands of a FEW ELITE Wealthy Illuminati Reptilian Serpents!


          You need to read the law before you start pontificating about it. Obscenity is only punishable by a fine. It takes a really big crime for the FCC to confiscate a license. The only way the airwaves “belong to the public” is through the Congress. Otherwise, they are private businesses with the independence to operate as they see fit. They’re allowed and encouraged to make a profit. Nothing wrong with any of that.

          • And Who elects the CONGRESS? THE PEOPLE! But, Unfortunately for the American Society, Our Government is to Corrupt that they will never side with the common average joe even if its written in paper. “The Public Airwaves” Like they call them belongs to the People as the Air their breath, or the water they drink, but every thing that represent some value will find some one claiming ownership of it like in this case: The Public Air Waves being used for pure private green and profit including the National Public Radio, Television, and even Low Power FM radio stations!

  2. Once again, I have to point out that the voters elected a government that ran on less regulation. That is what they promised. The last year, we’ve watched as rules about banking, health care, and the environment have all been swept away. Some by the Congress, some by executive order. But this is what the public voted for. I know the commenters in these stories are very passionate about their views, but unfortunately, they already lost. This FCC is going to cut regulations regardless of what a handful of posters think. They’ve already begun to cut regulations, such as the cross-ownership rules. Somehow the world didn’t end. If people really want a return to big government and more regulations, they need to express those opinions on election day. Because after then, it’s really too late.

  3. Pardon my French, but, BULLSHIT.

    Saying that having fewer owners and fewer employees will make the product better and more competitive is a bold faced lie. This is just a grab for monopolization. As a former radio employee, and someone who has tracked the industry for three decades, all I can say is to the signatories, reload your guns, there are still a few more feet to shoot, there are still more employees to synergize out of the industry, and still more listeners to drive away.

  4. When I testified at an FCC hearing against further consolidation, I handed the commissioners an Arbitron ranker showing that 5 of the 6 top rated stations in the #1 market were owned by one company–making it nearly impossible for an agency to get a fair, competitive proposal for an advertiser. I also shared an email from a credit manager at a large station group that threatened to blackball my client throughout their system over a payment dispute that resulted from a promotion directly impacted by 9-11. Nobody but big consolidated radio operators will benefit from lifting the ownership caps. Due to ratings sensitivity, we will have more format stagnation–not “experimentation”. We will undoubtedly see job opportunities shrink. The news will be controlled by too few entities–no diversity of opinion there. and ad rates will be controlled. (We were already told by a NY station group that we could not place a buy for under $10,000, which shuts smaller advertisers out of local radio.) Finally, investors will lose when the large groups once again fail to met their debt service. Bad idea!

  5. Really? The Signers of this letter are very successful operators to be sure. However let’s remember the two largest groups went bankrupt. Perhaps things need to be relaxed a bit, free enterprise tends to work itself out as the best managed groups tend to perform well. If it’s all about the stockholders the listeners and employees tend to be forgotten. This is all about the top 100 markets. Small & Medium markets who really serve the community will always make money if a local owner or long-time manager is there and involved.
    Making money serving the local market and providing a stable work environment is best done by small and medium companies!

  6. This was a good laugh. Many are good examples of companies more concerned about their book value for an exit stratagy than they are about running good, solid radio operations.


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