A Look at Radio Industry Consolidation

Saving Radio in the Satellite Era

The more urgent challenge is to begin searching for alternate ways to revive radio. Consolidation is not the only option. Today broadcast stations are beginning to convert their signals to the digital spectrum, which allows for each owner to operate multiple stations in the same space. To date, the F.C.C. has imposed few restrictions on the way radio stations use these new outlets. The commission is both giving away a precious public resource and squandering a historic opportunity to enliven the airwaves.

Fortunately, there is a solution: Require every station that wants to add to its holdings to broadcast a minimum level of original, live and local material. This proposal is based on one of the most successful broadcast policies in American history. In the 1960s, when the F.C.C. opened the FM dial, AM stations rushed to acquire licenses — but then simulcast the same shows they were already playing. This was not what regulators had in mind, so they ruled that FM stations had to play original content on at least half of their programming hours. Because radio companies didn’t want to invest much in FM, they ceded control of their studios to young people and amateur broadcasters. The result was the advent of free-form music radio, with programs so fresh and compelling that listeners flocked to FM and stayed there — at least until corporate broadcasters standardized it, too.

It’s time for Congress and the F.C.C. to consider policy ideas intended to serve the public interest, like requiring broadcast radio stations to air original programming on the new digital stations, or allowing satellite companies to run local news, talk and music. Mega-mergers are unlikely to provide any real benefits to citizens and consumers. Why resort to even more consolidation when we already know it doesn’t work?

Platforms for User-Generated Content

A CBS Take on the YouTube Madness

The CSTV Networks division of the CBS Corporation is starting a campaign today with the theme “Are you fan enough?,” inviting viewers to upload the do-it-yourself video clips to a community section of the CSTV Web site (cstv.com/postup). The campaign will appear on CSTV and cstv.com all during March Madness — officially, the men’s basketball tournament of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which begins on March 15 — and will end after the championship game is played in Atlanta on April 2.

The campaign represents the largest effort to date by CSTV to take part in a popular trend known as user-generated content, which seeks to capitalize on the eagerness of younger consumers to produce and share video clips on Web sites like MySpace and YouTube.

“This campaign is about the voice of the fans,” said Brian T. Bedol, president and chief executive at CSTV Networks in New York. “It says CSTV is a brand that connects college sports fans to their passion.”

America is experiencing the rise of “a video filmmaker culture,” Mr. Bedol said, now that “video cameras are in the hands of millions of everyday citizens in the form of digital cameras, camcorders and cellphones.”

Love It

Another example of the merits of Charlie Nesson’s view on how to some of these problems will get resolved: Which Videos Are Protected? Lawmakers Get a Lesson – New York Times

As the new Congress experiments with the wide world of blogging and video clips, members are learning the complexities of copyright law, much the way the casual YouTube user has learned that there are corporations out there that own “Lost” and can stop you from posting a favorite episode.

The introduction began awkwardly this month when the House Republican Study Committee issued a news release accusing Speaker Nancy Pelosi of “pirating” 16 copyrighted clips of House floor debate from the public affairs network C-Span by including them on her new blog, The Gavel.

[…] The speaker’s spokesman, Brendan Daly, used the opportunity to decry “yet another baseless attack of the Republicans; in this case they have retracted it.”

But last week, as it happens, C-Span did contact the speaker’s office to have it take down a different clip from her blog — one shot by C-Span’s cameras at a House Science and Technology Committee hearing on global warming where Ms. Pelosi testified, Mr. Daly said. (The blog has substituted material filmed by the committee’s cameras, he said.)

C-Span, a private nonprofit company financed by the cable and satellite affiliates that carry its programming, says that over more than 25 years of operating it has consistently asserted its copyright to any material it shoots with its own cameras. But that message can get lost.