The New York Times reports that Clear Channel is laying off radio deejays across the country, perhaps in the hundreds. These include Tony Lynn and Myles Copeland of Clear Channel Albuquerque country music station KBQI, shown in the YouTube video below. But two weeks before the story came out, the radio giant once again asked the Federal Communications Commission to relax the limits on how many frequencies a single entity can own.
On October 11, Clear Channel representative Lawrence Sidman met with FCC Chief of Staff Edward Lazarus and Jessica Almond, Special Council to Commission Chair Julius Genachowski. According to the ex parte summary, Sidman maintained:
that the Commission can no longer reasonably justify retaining the AM/FM subcap provisions in light of the extremely significant technological developments and regulatory changes that have occurred in recent years, as well as the current state of the broadcast radio marketplace. Moreover, based upon empirical data available as a result of Clear Channel’s previous station divestments, there is a high probability that repeal of the AM/FM subcap provisions will result in notably increased minority and female ownership of broadcast properties, a critically important and unfortunately all too elusive policy goal of the Commission.
Translation: thanks to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the FCC’s rules say that there’s no limit on the number of commercial stations a company can own nationally. That’s why Clear Channel presently holds about 800. But in “sub” markets like New York or Los Angeles (45+ stations), an entity can only own up to eight commercial licenses. Then the allowed number tapers down for lesser markets. In regions with 14 or fewer stations, an entity can own no more than five.
Clear Channel wants all those limits to go away.
The FCC is currently reviewing its media ownership rules. The comments in the proceeding, Clear Channel says, reflect “a broad cross-section of the radio industry, evidence the existence of a vibrant market for transactions that could enhance efforts to increase minority and female ownership and stimulate job growth and technological innovation in the radio industry were Commission to repeal the AM/FM subcaps.”
What does this mean? Probably that Clear Channel would like to sell some smaller radio stations and buy a bunch of bigger ones, but the FCC’s subcap rules gum up the plan. How casting them aside will “stimulate job growth” is unclear, given the layoffs that have just taken place in an already heavily deregulated market.