The RIT study is one of the first to explore direct effects of radio ownership consolidation on listeners’ attitudes toward and use of local radio, revealing potential impacts from deregulation on principles of radio “localism” and the public interest...
“Many American broadcasters in today’s era of ‘big media’ are not fulfilling their nearly century-old obligation to serve the public interest as stewards of the citizen-owned airwaves...”
Findings also revealed an emerging disconnect between local radio and today’s youth...respondents under age 25 reported listening to radio the least.
“Some stations are quite visible in their communities and many listeners regularly see radio personalities at local events...but does parking the station van at local festivals and handing out freebies fulfill broadcasters’ public-interest mandate? Most experts would answer: no.”
• More than 75% of respondents who attempted to reach a live announcer via studio telephone were occasionally unsuccessful; approximately 50% were “Never” or “Rarely” successful (findings Saffran attributes, in part, to computer-automated “voicetracking” and syndicated programming)
• Respondents’ primary sources for daily news: 1.) Internet, 2.) TV, 3.) Newspaper, 4.) Radio
Markets surveyed: Binghamton, Buffalo, Dallas-Fort Worth, Ithaca, Middlesex-Somerset-Union, Rochester
• Elimination of newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban
• Digital-spectrum reallocation to independent, local broadcasters
• Expanded licensing of low-power FM (LPFM) stations
• Sharpened and strictly enforced studio staffing requirements
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 and ensuing radio ownership consolidation are blamed for harming radio localism and the public interest...overall results indicate potentially negative consequences from local and national consolidation on amounts of local music, news, and public-service programming; live-local programming; and station responsiveness. Findings suggest policy change that could enhance radio localism.