An Editorial by Uncle Ricky
August 8, 1996

Images from "The Meaning of Life", ©1983 Celandine Films
"I'm going to own over half the revenue in every market - Bring me all the stations - and a bucket.." "Sir, we have some fine properties for you - and you can own them all for outrageous prices!" "I want them all - of course! -- I'll reduce expenses to maximize revenues."
"We don't need all these extra program directors and sales people! One per market is enough!" "Too many General Managers, too! Put the AMs on satellite and get rid of those stupid DJs!" "And now, Sir, just one wafer-thin 3-kilowatt automated FM after-dinner mint..."

Just like the waiter in Monty Python's classic film, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 is letting big, hungry radio corporations eat it all.
But unlike Mr. Creosote, radio won't "blow up" - instead, it will die a slow and painful death, withering to a fraction of its once impressive size.


Because the goal for radio is no longer making and marketing a product or service. While newer technologies are highly focused on that goal, Radio has become obsessed with buying, trading, merging and maximizing, in order to guarantee the majority share of a market's radio revenue. After all, there are only so many stations in any market. Innovation is unnecessary; money, monopoly and mediocrity are mandatory.

30 years ago, we worried about one entity owning one newspaper, TV, AM and FM station in any one market. Now, we set "limits" that allow one big bidder to own most of a market's radio revenue. We have forgotten that marrying your sister results in defective offspring.

Broadcast licenses are going for incredible prices. Go figure - when you invest millions more for the licenses than they are worth, there's nothing left to invest in product or people. Entire sales departments are dismissed because the new owner will sell "in combo" with an existing station. The two program directors have already been replaced with one. Audience shares can bounce back and forth between stations with the same format, and the total share remains the same. What's to lose? What's to win?

They always said TV would kill radio. Every new technology has been the death of radio. But this is different. It will most likely be radio that kills radio.

There is more choice for telephone service than ever before, and we may have killed the "Communications Decency Act". And so, the Internet remains free and we can all get the best deal on telephone service.

But Radio is eating itself.

August 8, 1996


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