Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Alaska, says testimony about media ownership, Internet radio’s future and performance royalties convinced him the group needs to look into consolidation, diversity and ownership.
“We will be doing that,” he said after a hearing on the future of radio this week.
Committee member Sen. Dorgan used his time to rail against the FCC for the chairman’s reported goal of wrapping up the ownership proceeding by year-end.
“The FCC is in for a huge battle if they think between now and December” it would relax limits, said Dorgan, whose remarks set much of the tone for the hearing.
Speaking of the consolidation that followed passage of the 1996 Telecom Act, Dorgan said, “This is not in the interest of the country.”
Russ Withers, owner of Withers Broadcasting and the chairman of the NAB Radio Board, reminded members that prior to 1996, commercial radio had been in dire straits, the FCC reporting that more than half of all stations were losing money and nearly 300 had gone off the air.
Dorgan asked Withers whether ownership concentration serves broadcasters’ ability to serve local communities.
Withers replied, “I agree with you if it’s abused, it’s not good.” How consolidation is implemented matters, he said, disagreeing that consolidation by itself is bad.
Minority ownership was discussed too. Free Press Research Director Derek Turner lashed out at what he called the commission’s “deeply flawed” records of station ownership by women and minorities. Free Press research shows women own 6% of the nation’s radio stations and minorities own 7%, he said. He argued against further relaxation of media ownership rules.