FMC: Radio diversity is propaganda

Claims that radio mergers have created more diversity in station format
are little more than misleading industry propaganda, critics of consolidation
said Monday.

There has been a proliferation of formats with only slight variety in their
actual playlists, the Future of Music Coalition said in the report submitted to
the Federal Communications Commission to bolster the case against further
relaxation of radio-ownership limits.

As an example, the groups said, the Urban and Contemporary Hit Radio-rhythmic
shared 38 songs on a 50-song sampled playlist, a 76 percent overlap.

Although that example was the most extreme, 18 other format pairings showed
overlaps ranging from 18 percent to 58 percent.

The study also found that while nearly 4,000 radio owners remain, the top four
companies control 70 percent of market share in virtually every geographic
market and, in most small markets, control 90 percent or more of market share.

The data examine the impact of radio consolidation since the enactment of the
1996 Telecommunications Act, which removed national caps on radio ownership and
ushered in a wave of industry mergers.

A listener survey also conducted by the coalition found that audiences are
unhappy with the state of radio today as evidenced by declining amount of time
listening, wishes for less advertising and desire for longer playlists.

The coalition's research was ridiculed by the National Association of
Broadcasters in a point-by-point retort debunking the study's 'myths.'

Said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton: 'This study has less credibility than Miss
Cleo. Their findings were directly contracted by the FCC.'

An FCC study released in October found that radio playlists have become more
diverse within individual markets but slightly less diverse nationally now that
conglomerates set corporate programming.

'Clearly, we hit a nerve,' said Jenny Toomey, the
coalition's executive director, in defense of the new report. 'There would be no
reason [for the NAB] to issue such a lengthy screed if the study was as flawed
as they say it is.'