Archive for April 14, 2007

F the CC: Part 1

April 14, 2007 Leave a comment

The FCC needs to be investigated for deregulating station ownership in a single media market. Instead of focusing on controlling words & thoughts, as they did in good old NAZI Germany, how about stopping huge corporations from controlling the airwaves? The average person in the audience doesn’t really care who owns all the stations in their area. Most don’t even care about programming content until it affects them in some way.

Regardless of who cares, it’s still based on ad dollars & that’s divided more & more with the many media venues available since technology has grown. The FCC ruling of over 10 years ago enabled one company to own 6 or 7 TV/Radio operations in designated market regions, mapped & regulated by an appointed body, the Federal Communication Commission. Previously it had been limited to essentially one TV station, and an AM/FM radio station (2/3). Look no further than this obvious conflict:

In 1964, and I remember it vividly, my favorite Top 40 station was WINS (NY). That’s because unlike WABC, the number one Top 40 station, WINS actually played most of the records on the list. Big shot & boring WABC played the same 15 over & over, and gave me the material for my first non-anti-parental rant. But one day I literally woke up & the music had died: WINS became the first major market all news format station. My disbelief & depression aside, it was groundbreaking.

Not long after WCBS-AM, NY, also went all news–this kids, is just called good old American competition. Having more network resources & stations around the US, CBS ( Columbia Broadcasting ) regularly kicked WINS ( Westinghouse ) butt in the ratings ( Arbitron ). Then 30+ years later, CBS bought WINS. Yep, they owned 2 all news stations in the number 1 media market! I guess 24/7 ain’t enough. That’s hardly fair & balanced, is it?

Satellite, cable & eventually the internet are all competition now for a news junkie’s attention. But still, one company can control the news & editorial direction for a whole region without true rebuttal or even a different opinion. Some talk load will have you on the phone for 30 seconds, chew you up if he or she doesn’t like you, choke off your voice, then hang up. Then proceed to tear you a new one, because 1. it’s their show and 2. it’s their show. They can even edit what you say & play it back to make you say things you didn’t. Now that’s entertainment.

Ostensibly this deregulation was to enable a dying medium to consolidate ad revenue, one can sell more time if you have more time to sell. You can also offer Ed’s Hardware more airtime on a Country Station, a Talk format, Album Rock all in the same building, maybe even the same room. If Ed doesn’t like an Urban Contemporary representing him, he doesn’t have to advertise there. But his money will be used to run that station, if The Greed Broadcasting Group has that format on let’s say Hizzop 109. Unless Ed is a savvy media buyer, he won’t know, and they ain’t gonna tell him.

What they will say is he gets more bang for his buck & at low low rates. Which is mostly true. I love radio, but radio spots only do one thing good: if they are well produced, and many are, they stick in your head. One day, when you’re a mile away from home & you realize you need some nails, but don’t want to drive 7 miles backwards to Home Depot, you see Ed’s up ahead, and you think: hey! it’s Ed’s!!!

Jackpot for Ed! he just made 3¢! he can buy Mrs. Ed that string of pearls he’s been saving for at Dollar Deals. They need the traffic, those ad dollars haven’t been exactly getting driven there! Meanwhile, the big companies in the big time markets, you can figure them out: New York, LA, Atlanta, Chicago etc., run Coke & Chevy commercials & make some real money because they own 300 or 3000 stations in the USA & Coke & Chevy ain’t stupid. Mostly. . ..

Forget that stuff. You don’t care why the FCC sold out to big business. My old friend Miss Elizabeth could size bunch that up in a hamster heartbeat. What I don’t like, is how they don’t really need humans anymore. One ambitious ‘ voice talent ‘ with good tech skills, a decent budget & the a pep juice of choice, can do the work of hundreds, from a home studio. AND they do for many small US stations. These stations mostly run syndicated shows, using very few locals on air.

That’s not good for the workforce. What’s really worse is, ownership likes it this way & if they want to a hire blonde blue eyed 23 year old lefthanded Swedish swimsuit model to do weather, they can. If they want her to be fluent in English, Spanish & the click language of the Bantu (the Xhosa branch), they can wait 5 minutes for someone liker her to apply. And they don’t gotta hire you! Well, me actually. . ..

If they want to keep somebody out of work in a market, they can. Since all they really need is 5 or 6 warm bodies: a sales manager, sales people, who can sweet talk Ed, an office worker and 2 guys to do High School sports, either of whom, run equipment when one is on a remote, out of the studio. Any personality on the station wil come off a satellite like Bob & Tom, Bob & Sherry, Bob & Forapals, you get the picture.

To be continued. . ..

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