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NAB Urges FCC to Modify Local Radio Limits

Broadcast lobby says smartphone ownership has had a “profound” effect on radio

NAB believes it’s time the FCC modify the local radio ownership limits and eliminate the AM/FM subcaps.

The broadcast trade lobby is asking the FCC to recognize that media habits have changed over time — broadcasters have a lot more competition these days — and it’s asking the agency to relax or eliminate portions of its media ownership rules. No longer the dominant medium of the past, broadcasters have had to change their business models to survive, the lobby tells the commission in comments filed in the media ownership proceeding.

NAB “respectfully requests that the commission recognize and come to grips with the impact these changes are having on broadcasters, consumers, the development of content and the flow of information.”

For radio in particular, the FCC can no longer justify maintaining existing local radio ownership limits as they are, says NAB.

Smartphone ownership has had a “profound and clear impact” on radio in particular says NAB with its on-the-go access to the Internet and multiple streaming media options. These technologies can no longer be characterized as nascent — they are major marketplace competitors. “Indeed, to claim that ‘non-broadcast sources of audio programming are not yet meaningful substitutes for broadcast radio stations with respect to either listeners or advertisers,’ when one single online competitor (Pandora) has 76,000,000 active users and a 9.28% share of total U.S. radio listening plainly ignores reality,” according to the trade lobby.

These rapid and significant changes in the audio marketplace will only intensify, as they are driven by younger consumers.

In 2011, the commission had tentatively concluded that the relevant market for review of the radio ownership rule should include only broadcast radio stations. This tentative conclusion ignores the reality of today’s market, states NAB, which believes the agency can’t justify retaining the current tiered system based on market analysis from 2002 or even 2006.

Additionally, cross-ownership rules that prevent common ownership of a radio station and TV station or broadcast entities and newspapers in the same market do not promote the commission’s localism, competition or diversity goals, NAB said in its comments.