FMC Rebuts FCC; Miscellaneous Piracy Afoot

The Future of Music Coalition, a group of independent musicians and socially-conscious inside-the-Beltway lobbyists, released a study today calling into question the FCC’s official reports on the effects of deregulation on the radio industry. FMC’s study uses a statistical analysis of radio industry ownership trends and the playlists of radio formats, coupled with a small public survey, to paint a significantly different picture of the state of radio than the FCC’s analysis.
According to the report, the idea of judging diversity of voices on the airwaves by the number of program formats available is absurd. Some formats overlap in their choice of music – some by as much as 76% – while in many markets there is quite a bit of format redundancy (two stations that basically play the same stuff). And when it comes to news, four companies program all the stations that two-thirds of Americans listen to for news.
Among survey respondents, an overwhelming majority favor localism over cluster-programmed stations, think there’s too much advertising on the radio now, and want the new low-power FM service expanded.
You can check out the entire study in .PDF format or read the executive summary online for the high points. The National Association of Broadcasters, always quick on the trigger, released a response to the yet-to-be-published study last week, claiming it was flawed from the start. Who’re you gonna believe?
In older news, massive props to the Institute for Applied Piracy, who reportedly successfully hijacked the frequency of a popular commercial radio station in Sydney, Australia on the morning of a meeting of World Trade Organization ministers last Friday. According to a report on the Sydney IMC, the hijackers used the interruption to broadcast a 10-minute monologue about why the WTO is harmful and why we never hear about it in the mainstream media.
Also last week the FCC fined California Speedway $8,000 for running an unlicensed radio station. The speedway was using a 1-watt FM rig on 104.7 to broadcast race action to people outside the race track.
According to the FCC, its Los Angeles office made repeated contacts with speedway officials about the unlawfulness of their operation before issuing a $10,000 fine. The speedway argued that it was operating as responsibly as it could without a license – no joke – and didn’t deserve the full penalty as a result. The FCC apparently agreed, knocking two grand off the fine.
Let me get this straight: if you’re some kid broadcasting metal and you take the same precautions not to interfere with anyone, you can expect the full wrath of the Feds – but if you’re broadcasting revving noises to NASCAR fans, then pirate radio becomes somehow less evil.
Of course, California Speedway didn’t make out as well as the Metroplex speedway in Texas did when it was caught broadcasting a low-power television signal of races in 1999. In that case, the the racetrack simply pulled the strings of its congressman, who gave then-FCC Chairman William Kennard a talking-to. Kennard told the enforcement goons to lay off, and the Metroplex was never punished.