‘Mark My Words’: Edwards Sees Further Consolidation, Fewer Voices

Bob Edwards was among the higher-profile faces at this week’s testimony to the FCC about media ownership and localism.
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Bob Edwards was among the higher-profile faces at this week’s testimony to the FCC about media ownership and localism.

The former NPR host, now a fixture on XM and heard weekends on PRI, spoke for members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; Edwards is a national vice president of the union.

Among his remarks to the commission, he addressed competition between satellite and local radio:

“Satellite radio is, by definition, a national platform. The strength of terrestrial radio and its major appeal is that it is local. When it comes to conveying local information, news, weather and community events, there is no real competition between these platforms.

“A national satellite broadcaster isn’t going to give local communities information about, for example, their local school board election--and if terrestrial broadcasters continue to consolidate, local communities won’t get that information from local radio stations, either.”

Edwards also said, “The drive to consolidate ownership of media seems to ignore the disaster that consolidation has brought to local news and public affairs on radio in this country. The commission should not intensify the continuing evisceration of broadcast localism as a result of consolidation by adopting rules enabling even more consolidation.”

He cited examples of the impact of deregulation, including in Chicago, where due to consolidation CBS Radio ended up owning the two all-news stations.

“Because WMAQ(AM) and WBBM(AM) were the only two all-news format radio stations in Chicago, when Viacom killed WMAQ(AM), it was killing WBBM(AM)’s only competition, leaving the third largest radio market in the United States with only one all-news radio station,” Edwards said.

“Although these moves may have been highly profitable for Viacom, they were hardly in the public interest.”

Media consolidation, Edwards said, “has been the enemy of localism in broadcasting.” If the FCC wants to enhance localism, it should tighten, not loosen, ownership restrictions.

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