NAB Is Selling Radio Out (Again)

I don't take any pleasure having to say this, but the National Association of Broadcasters is selling radio out -- again.

I want to start by saying that there are a lot of great and good people at the NAB who care about radio and many broadcasters who serve on its board who do so for all the right reasons.

But somehow, our trade organization as powerful a lobby group as it is, is siding with big money, big broadcasters and those interested in further consolidation.

Consolidation has been a spectacular success and has made the radio industry more vital, more relevant, more vibrant and better able to compete with new media such as interactive and mobile. Wait...wait...

That's what consolidation should have been. Here's what it is:

Consolidation is a spectacular failure and has made the radio industry myopic -- losing sight of the vital next generation while enabling greedy broadcasters to have a virtual monopoly over what once was a pretty successful local medium. It has fired or laid off hundreds if not thousands of dedicated and talented radio people and likely will have to trim even more jobs as the consolidators can't seem to make their monopoly work.

The only answer?

More monopoly.

And the NAB, which was there for the big money people before, is at-the-ready again.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is hell bent to loosen media ownership rules before the end of the year angering politicians on both sides of the political spectrum. Martin, who wouldn't be the first FCC Commissioner to cross over to the side that he now oversees when he retires, is putting the interests of a few over the best interests of the industry.

What disgusts me is that the NAB -- your trade association that you support with your membership, dues and attendance at profitable conventions is selling you out.

This would be the second time.

The first time under former NAB Chairman Eddie Fritts (now in private practice as a lobbyist), helped sneak radio consolidation legislation into the 1996 Telecommunications Act at the last minute. Many broadcasters were blindsided. Once passed, the consolidation land grab was on and you've seen the price the radio industry has paid as a result.

Imagine if radio was still run with a maximum of 14 AMs, 14 FMs and 14 TV stations. Then imagine that the Internet came along, the next generation started turning to their computers and the radio industry had to answer the challenge. I'll bet these owners would have. There would have been a lot more individual companies taking a whack at the problem. You wouldn't have been looking to the likes of John Hogan or Joel Hollander to lead you through a remarkable new age.

I'm not saying ownership limits couldn't have been relaxed -- but how about this -- set the limit at a number companies could actually operate in the public interest as well as their own interest. How about 50 stations of whatever kind? Alright, 75 if you can run them. But not a handful of monopolies run by a handful of not-ready-for-prime-time CEOs.

You see where they and their clones got you.

A dying business.

No Internet strategy other than websites.

No mobile strategy.

No blueprint to follow their audience where they now live -- online and on their phones.

And by the way -- I don't know about you but I am tired of hearing the principals of large radio companies crying the blues about their bad financial performance. Can anyone remember when owners who held radio stations actually lost money? It went with the territory to holding a public fiduciary. You didn't always make a profit.

That's right.

They lost money holding the public trust.

Those characters from the hey day of radio were OK with owning a stinker or two. Okay if some of their stations got ratings and didn't have a good enough sales team to take advantage of them. Just fine being the owner -- an honor, by the way -- of a public conduit to education, information and entertainment.

I'm not shedding tears for the money losing radio owners who have failed to use their monopolies to build shareholder value -- the holy grail of greedy corporations.

By every standard -- audience, revenue, shareholder value -- the consolidators have failed. We read about it nearly every day in the trade press.

It's all insane.

Let me get this right.

Consolidation failed.

Radio is losing revenue and audience (especially the next generation).

Careers of talented people have been ended and lives destroyed in the process.

Wall Street analysts don't even want to cover the radio sector anymore.

All this and what do we do?

Seek more consolidation.

It's not personal. It's business. I'm just going to say it.

Your NAB is leading the fight against you.

What are you going to do about it this time?

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