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"The local character of radio has largely vanished, there has been a sharp reduction in the amount and variety of regional distinctions in music broadcast over the radio, and certain anti-competitive business practices have taken hold."
——AFTRA's memo.
AFTRA TO FCC:
RADIO CONSOLIDATION BAD
Trade Group Representing TV and Radio Artists Delivers Brief Saying Clear Channel's Power is Causing Harm to Public Interest
In a legal brief filed with the Federal Communications Commission, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists accuses Clear Channel of expanding its dominance to such a degree that "there is concern both the radio and sound recordings industries have been forever transformed and destroyed."

In the 20-page, annotated document obtained by HITS, AFTRA claims "consolidation in the radio industry since 1996 has harmed the public interest by reducing diversity and competition in local radio markets." The brief goes on to state this consolidation has also "caused particular harm to recording artists and to the music industry," and that "the harms to the public interest…are illustrated by Clear Channel."

The brief, submitted by AFTRA's National Director of News and Broadcasting Thomas R. Carpenter and National Director of Sound Recordings Ann Chaitovitz, also targets CBS/Infinity and ABC/Disney, among other big broadcasters. It claims the loosening of station ownership limitations since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 "has had a devastating impact on diversity and competition in radio broadcasting… [eliminating] the diversity in news, entertainment and public affairs programming." The paper insists the act "directed the FCC to revise its rules in order to permit consideration and meaningful investigation of how the Commission's regulatory structure did or did not foster the public interest, [making it] entirely appropriate to consider other factors beyond mere numerical limits."

AFTRA points out that radio-industry consolidation has harmed the public interest by "reducing diversity in news and public affairs programming," as well as the advertising competition in local radio markets. In one of several examples, the brief points out that in Tampa, the nation’s #21 market, Clear Channel, Infinity and Cox collectively control 88% of total ad revenue.

The paper devotes an entire section to the damage consolidation has done to the music industry by "greatly [reducing] diversity and localism. The local character of radio has largely vanished, there has been a sharp reduction in the amount and variety of regional distinctions in music broadcast over the radio, and certain anti-competitive business practices have taken hold."

According to the brief, certain music formats are being eliminated from the airwaves, including classical, jazz and bluegrass, as is the role of disc jockeys and PDs to program music to "local tastes and preferences." Additionally, the amount of advertising has increased in proportion to programming.

The brief points to the exclusive agreement between radio group Cumulus and Jeff McClusky and Associates as another partnership not in the public's interest, stating, "Dominant radio group owners now control the music market through exclusive arrangements with independent promoters, who decide what music gets...played on the stations."

Clear Channel comes under particular scrutiny in part because of the conglom's expansion into the concert industry with its 1999 purchase of SFX Entertainment. The acquisition gave Clear Channel the power to "limit promotional support of bands and artists who are performing for other companies, at other venues or who are sponsored by other stations… Some of the remaining independent [concert] promoters have alleged Clear Channel is engaging in anti-competitive behavior by using its leverage to force smaller companies out of business."

In its conclusion, the AFTRA memo urges the FCC to "conduct public hearings on the effect of deregulation and…consolidation" and "investigate complaints of anti-competitive behavior" leveled at the radio behemoths.

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