[Marxism] Air America Flight Aborted Due to Deregulation

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Thu Apr 1 17:49:58 MST 2004

*****   [T]his liberal radio network [Air America] faces numerous 
obstacles in capturing a substantial audience, in particular finding 
a critical mass of stations that will broadcast its voices. The 
network has already fallen behind in its initial goal, announced last 
year, of owning five stations by the time it went on the air. As of 
today it owns none.

Instead Air America has bought programming time on stations with 
moderately strong signals, but previously low ratings: WLIB-AM in New 
York, WNTD-AM in Chicago, KBLA-AM in Los Angeles, KCAA-AM in 
Riverside and San Bernadino, Calif., and KPOJ-AM in Portland, Ore. A 
San Francisco station is expected to be announced in early April.

By contrast Rush Limbaugh, whom Air America has identified as a chief 
competitor, is heard on more than 600 stations, including WABC in New 
York. Sean Hannity, another conservative talk-show host, has a 
similar reach.

Air America, which has raised more than $20 million, has grand plans 
for buying stations, or at least all of the broadcast time on 
stations, in more than a dozen cities by year's end. Many are in 
Ohio, Florida and other states considered battlegrounds in the 
presidential election. But since the media ownership rules were eased 
in the mid-1990's, much of the broadcast spectrum is owned by a 
handful of companies. Few stations are for sale, and few station 
owners will give over all of their broadcast day to untested 

(Jacques Steinberg, "Liberal Voices Get New Home on Radio Dial," 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/31/arts/31AIR.html>)   *****

*****   Greens note the damage that has already been done by the 1996 
Telecommunications Act, signed by Clinton, which weakened rules 
prohibiting a community's lone local newspaper to be owned by the 
same corporation that owns local TV and radio stations.

"Imagine a town in which the only opinions one could find on TV, 
radio, or in the newspaper might be those of Rush Limbaugh," said Jo 
Chamberlain, a California Green and member of the party's national 
Steering Committee. 

("Greens Oppose FCC Deregulation." January 10, 2003, 
<http://www.gp.org/press/pr_01_10_03b.html>)   *****

The 1996 Telecommunications Act: 

Where is the "competition" the Telecommunications Act was supposed to provide?
By Robert W. McChesney

The 1996 Telecommunications Act has just marked its first year of 
existence. From Bill Clinton to Newt Gingrich, the bipartisan 
proponents of the legislation promised it would unleash a "digital 
revolution," combining fantastic technologies with the genius of the 
unregulated market. At the very least, competition would improve 
products and services and lower cable and telephone charges for 
consumers. In the long run, the Telecommunications Act would usher in 
the Information Age, an era of unprecedented human freedom and 
economic prosperity. None of the above promises have materialized, 
nor is there any reason to believe they will. Here's what has 

In early February, the Federal Communications Commission began 
allocating the digital spectrum to the existing commercial 
broadcasters. Without any public debate or competitive arrangement, 
the largest media companies in the world are being handed what could 
become the equivalent of at least five new channels in every market 
where they currently own one. This near-secret process virtually 
guarantees that Disney/Cap Cities, Time Warner, General Electric, 
Westinghouse, Viacom, the Tribune Company and the News Corporation, 
among others, can maintain their rule over U.S. media for another 
generation or two. It is worth noting that The Washington Post 
estimated the value of this digital spectrum to run as high as $70 
billion. The stench of corruption is so thick that The Wall Street 
Journal even ran a front-page article on March 17 deploring the 
giveaway, and Bob Dole followed suit in a New York Times Op-Ed two 
weeks later. As Senator John McCain puts it, broadcasters "are about 
to pull off one of the great scams in American history." . . .

(_The Nation_, April 21, 1997, 
<http://www.radiodiversity.com/hiwayrobbery.html>)   *****

*****   Published in the March 2001 issue of the Silicon Alley Reporter
Farewell to Radio
by Robert W. McChesney

. . . There are only a few dozen radio channels in a given community. 
In 1996 the Telecommunications Act greatly revised the rules for 
radio station ownership. Back in the 70s and 80s, firms could only 
own around a dozen stations nationwide and no more than two in a 
single market. The 1996 law, rammed though by the powerful corporate 
radio lobby without a shred of debate or media coverage, eliminated 
any restriction on the number of stations a firm could own 
nationally, and raised the limit in a single market to eight, in the 
largest communities.

Since the law passed, there has been a complete reformation of U.S 
radio, with well over half the 11,000 commercial station changing 
hands. Small station groups can not compete with the giant chains so 
they sell out. Radio is now dominated by a small handful of firms 
that own hundreds of stations each. Every market is now dominated by 
two or three firms that are "maxed out" with eight stations each. The 
quality of radio has plummeted. With little competition, the amount 
of advertising is up to 18 minutes per hour, according to one 
industry trade publication, well over the figure for a decade ago. 
Also, localized news and production has been dropped for vastly less 
expensive standardized fare. You could be blindfolded and airdropped 
into Louisiana, Oregon or Vermont and probably hear the same oldies 
song or Rush Limbaugh show on the local radio.

Clear Channel, which owns around 800 stations, has shined the light 
on the new world order of corporate radio. It usually houses all 
eight stations it owns in a given community on one floor of a 
building. Each "station" gets one room about the size of a closet 
where it can transmit standardized fare. The remaining office space 
is mostly for the ad salespeople. . . .

<http://www.commondreams.org/views01/0307-04.htm>   *****

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