Using data from the Occupational Employment Survey of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, FMC Research Director Peter DiCola examines the effects of radio consolidation on employment and wages for radio announcers, news reporters, and broadcast technicians. The report finds that, comparing figures across metropolitan areas, an increase in the number of stations per owner within a metropolitan area was associated with both lower employment levels and lower wages during the years 1996 to 2003. The study also shows that the job losses in radio impede federal policy mandates to promote localism and diversity in media.
Specifically, the study finds:
The combined market share of the top four radio companies in each local market increased by an average of 14.3 percent between 1993 and 2004 across 265 markets.
Cities with higher degrees of radio consolidation had greater job losses among news reporters and broadcast technicians from 1996 to 2003.
Cities with higher degrees of radio consolidation experienced smaller wage growth for DJs and news reporters from 1996 to 2003.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 eliminated the cap on the number of radio stations one company, organization, or individual may own nationally, and loosened limits on ownership of stations within a single market. Radio companies claimed ownership limits prevented them from taking advantage of “economies of scale.”
Since 1996, as radio companies have consolidated, they have cut costs by centralizing some operations in distant markets, such as on air DJs, programmers, reporters, and engineering or broadcast-technician jobs.
Among the practices the study identified that resulted in layoffs, depressed wage growth, and reduced localism include: “voice tracking,” a practice of using pre-recorded programming that replaces live and local DJs; reduced ability of stations to conduct emergency broadcast warnings; increased use of nationalized music programming; and reduced local news coverage.