Industry Groups Call on FCC Not to Further Deregulate AM/FM Ownership

Groups call potential loosening of ownership caps ‘disastrous’ for music creators
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Two music artist groups who have filed comments on the status of competition in the audio programming delivery marketplace say it’s key that the Federal Communications Commission not further deregulate ownership of AM/FM radio in the U.S.

The groups musicFIRST and Future of Music filed comments with the Media Bureau on Sept. 24 as part of the commission’s request for comments heading up to the FCC’s upcoming Quadrennial Review.

[Read: NAB Chimes in on Competition]

In the filing, musicFIRST and the Future of Music Coalition called the potential loosening of local radio station ownership caps within the FCC’s upcoming Quadrennial Review “disastrous [for] the public interest and music creators.”

“Any demands to drop local ownership caps in order to improve AM/FM radio’s competitive position in the music delivery marketplace based on the relative strength of its more innovative competitors is entirely misplaced,” the two said.

In the filing, the groups pressed the commission to recognize that owners of large AM/FM radio clusters within individual markets in the U.S. already have substantial competitive advantages over owners of smaller clusters and individual independent stations within those markets. For example, if the commission were to loosen the local radio station ownership caps in its upcoming Quadrennial Review, “history has made clear that such action would substantially reduce competition among AM/FM radio stations and profoundly harm the public interest in allowing radio entities with smaller market shares to effectively compete with their larger counterparts.”

While the groups acknowledge that music streaming, in-home speakers, podcasts and satellite radio have exploded in popularity, “AM/FM radio is still healthy notwithstanding the fact that they have more competition from newer and more innovative audio platforms.”

“AM/FM radio already enjoys a competitive advantage over their audio competitors — they don’t pay music creators while every other platform playing sound recordings does,” said Chris Israel, musicFIRST executive director. “Congress’ unanimous passage of the Music Modernization Act demonstrates that updating old laws, leveling playing fields and fairly compensating music creators will win the day over anti-competitive practices.”

In the filing, the two organizations request that when the commission analyzes the local radio station ownership caps and makes its report to Congress, that it understand that AM/FM already has a substantial advantage over its competitors: it does not pay to use sound recordings, the groups said.

“We are united in our belief that AM/FM radio stations should compensate music creators for the use of their work, just like all other audio delivery platforms do,” the groups said in the filing.

“Considering the fact that AM/FM radio has not lost a substantial number of listeners, the competitive advantages that owners of large numbers of radio stations enjoy, and the public interest in protecting smaller broadcasters from reduced competition, we strongly urge the commission to refrain from loosening the local radio station ownership caps in its upcoming Quadrennial Review,” the groups said in the filing.

The Media Bureau is requesting comments as part of FCC Docket No. 18-227.

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