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Restore the Public Interest to the Public Airwaves:

Rewrite Radio Ownership Rules!

Today, six giant multinational corporations now control all 14,000 radio stations in
our country, almost all 6,000 TV stations, 80 percent of our newspapers, all of our
billboards, and now most of the Internet information services. So you have six guys
who dictate what Americans have as information and what we see as news. The news
departments have become corporate profit centers. They no longer have any obligation
to benefit the public interest; their only obligation is to their shareholders, and they
fulfill that obligation by increasing viewership.

Robert F. Kennedy, in a speech to the Sierra Club, September 10, 2005

The 1996 Telecommunications Act rewrote radio ownership rules to allow a handful of corporate
giants to take over local radio. This hijacking of the radio airwaves is the reason why Rush
Limbaugh and company dominate the public airwaves and the political discussion. It is the
reason why Bill Clinton was impeached, why John Kerry was swiftboated, why George Bush was
elected and why the Tea Parties have flourished. It is the reason why we as a nation are so
polarized, why we shout at each other rather than debate with each other, and why we as a culture
are growing accepting of hate radio which incites violence.

It is why local bands can no longer get on the air, and why midwesterners can no longer get
tornado alerts. It affects the quality of our news, our information, and the health and public safety
of our communities. It is why local people have no say over the content provided by the very
radio stations licensed to serve their interest, the public interest.

In short, the 1996 Telecommunications Act has worn away the very fabric of America. It is time
to restore discourse to the America the founding fathers envisioned by restoring local ownership
to the publicly owned airwaves .

Congress is currently taking comments on rewriting the Communications Act to


include New Media. Tell Congress to rewrite the Old Media radio ownership
rules at the same time.

Sue Wilson

November 22, 2010


suewilsonreports.com
U.S. Talk Radio Programming 53 million people in the U.S.
listen to Talk Radio.
(source: Arbitron Radio Today,
2009.)
50,000,000

40,000,000 91% of Talk Radio Programs


are Conservative.
30,000,000 Conservative (source: Structural Imbalance of Talk
Radio, Center for American Progress
20,000,000 Progressive
and Free Press, 2007.)
10,000,000

2,570 hours of Conservative


Hours of Conservative v Progressive Talk Radio are broadcast each
Talk Radio Aired Daily weekday on these stations
compared to 254 hours of
3000 Progressive Talk.
2500
(source: Structural Imbalance of Talk
2000 Radio, Center for American Progress
Progressive
1500 and Free Press, 2007.)
Conservative
1000
500
0

92 percent of talk radio


Conservative v. Progressive Ideas
stations do not broadcast a
on the Public Airwaves
single minute of progressive
talk radio programming.
250
(source: Structural Imbalance of Talk
200 Airs No Radio, Center for American Progress
Progressive and Free Press, 2007.)
150 Ideas
100 Airs Some
Progressive
50 Ideas

0
Radio Reaches More than Any
Media Radio has the greatest
penetration of any media
(print, broadcast, or digital,)
100
reaching 90 percent of
80 Americans each week.

60 % Americans (source: Arbitron, “Radio Today:


reached by How America Listens to Radio, 2007
40 radio edition,” p. 3. Total percentages
based on spring 2006 data)
20

Radio Reach Strong Despite New Media


Despite the availability of
numerous new media
100 alternatives, radio’s weekly
reach has declined only
80
modestly in the past several
60 years, from 94.9% in Spring
2001, when the iPod was
Weekly Reach introduced, to 91% in Fall ’08.
40
(source: Arbitron Radio Today,
20 2009)

0
2001 2008

Radio Listening Occurs Away from From 7AM to 7PM weekdays,


Home, Mostly in Cars more radio listening takes
place away from home:
70 accompanying listeners in the
car, at work or some other
60 % Radio location. Overall, 64% of
50 Listening in
weekday listening occurred
cars or away
40 from home out-of home. Commuters
make up 44% of radio
30 % Radio
Listening at listeners.
20 (source: Arbitron Radio Today, 2009,
Home
Nielsen Media Research)
10
0
Conservative Talk Radio Dwarfs Fox News

Conservative Talk Radio Dwarfs FOX News


Sean Hannity gets 2.5 million
viewers on FOX News, but
14.25 Million listeners on
16,000,000 Talk Radio.
14,000,000
12,000,000 Glenn Beck gets 2.125
10,000,000
Talk Radio million viewers on FOX
8,000,000
6,000,000 News, but 9 million radio
FOX News
4,000,000 listeners.
2,000,000 (source: Nielsen Media Research,
0 Talkers Magazine, 3-2010)
Hannity Beck
An estimated 48 million
Americans listen to
Conservative Talk Radio on
various programs nationwide.

One Radio Show Equals Audience


of Entire FOX News Primetime Lineup

20,000,000

15,000,000

10,000,000

5,000,000

0
Limbaugh Hannity Beck Savage Fox
Primetime

Rush Limbaugh's radio audience alone is greater than the entire FOX News Primetime
lineup combined. Stats reflect Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, and Savage's radio audiences
and FOX Cable TV audience. (Source: Talkers Magazine 3-2010, Nielsen Media Research, 7-2010)
Radio Ownership Limits
1934 - 1994

40
Early broadcasters were
limited to owning just 3 AM
and 3 FM stations
20 nationwide. By 1994, that
number had increased to 40.
0
1934 1949 1984 1992 1994 (source: FCC )
MaxStations 6 14 24 36 40
Allowed

Radio Ownership Limits


1994 - 1996
The 1996
Telecommunications Act
1200 allowed one person,
1000 corporate or individual, to
buy thousands of radio
800 stations, as many as eight in
600 a single town. Clear
Channel bought 1200; they
400 are permitted by law to buy
200 more.

0
1994 1996

Rise of Rush Limbaugh


Post 1996 Telecommunications Act After the 1996
Telecommunications Act
600 changed radio ownership
rules, Rush Limbaugh went
500
from about 56 stations to
400 Number of nearly 600 – virtually
300 Stations Airing overnight. Dozens of other
200 Rush Conservative Talkers
Limbaugh followed.
100
0 source: whorunsgov.com
1988 2000