Last week, Chairman Pai gave a speech to the Media Institute in Washington, talking about his deregulatory accomplishments during his tenure as FCC Chairman. Central to his speech was the suggestion that the broadcast ownership rules no longer made sense, as they regulate an incredibly small piece of the media landscape, while digital competitors, who are commanding a greater and greater share of the market for audience and advertising dollars, are essentially unregulated. Not only are they unregulated, but the digital services that compete with broadcasting are owned and financed by companies who are the giants of the US economy. In his speech, he noted that the company with the most broadcast TV ownership is dwarfed in market capitalization by the companies offering competing video services.
While the Chairman’s speech concentrated on television, mentioning radio only in passing, we note that many of these same issues are even more at play in the audio entertainment marketplace. When the Chairman two months ago offered remarks on the hundredth anniversary of the first commercial radio station in the US, he recognized that radio has played a fundamental role in the communications world over the last century. But that role faces more and more challenges, perhaps exaggerated by the pandemic when in many markets listeners are spending less time in cars where so much radio listening takes place. There are many challenges to over-the-air radio as new sources of audio entertainment that sound and function similarly are more and more accessible to the public and more and more popular with listeners. Over-the-air radio is already less a distinct industry than a part of the overall audio entertainment marketplace competing with streaming services, podcasts, satellite radio and other audio media. These changes in listening habits are coupled with a change in the advertising marketplace, as the digital media giants now take over 50% of the local advertising market that was once the province of radio, television and newspapers.
Continue Reading Outgoing FCC Chairman Pai Calls for Modernization of Media Ownership Rules – Audio Competition Issues for the New FCC To Consider