Broadcast Conglomerates Consolidate in Cyberspace

This week, Clear Channel (#1 in national radio station ownership) and Cumulus (#2) inked an agreement intimately linking their online broadcast strategies.

Cumulus will integrate the webcasts from its ~560 radio stations under Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio streaming platform, and will actively promote it on-air. In exchange, Clear Channel will cross-promote Cumulus’ SweetJack service, a Groupon-style business the broadcaster is developing in markets where it has stations, both on-air and online. Read More

Killing the Human Element

Clear Channel-owned radio stations in small to medium-sized markets were decimated last week as the company laid off dozensif not hundreds – of on-air talent. This means that, at some Clear Channel station-clusters, there is literally no local presence on the airwaves anymore.

Clear Channel says it’ll take remaining talent and syndicate their shows across markets, using “custom breaks” and “localized content” to provide a patina of localism on affected stations – a practice otherwise known as voice tracking. The company has also appointed two dozen “Brand Managers” to oversee 11 national station formats. Read More

“Heroic” Localism

The New York Times recently ran a canonizing profile on the afternoon-drive DJ at WRIP-FM, a locally-owned Top 40-format commercial radio station in Windham, New York. He conducted a 13-hour broadcast marathon during the flooding caused by Hurricane Irene last month, taking phone calls and disseminating emergency information the old fashioned way – listener by listener.

The Times piece is but the latest in a long string of articles that have justifiably recognized the outstanding local service broadcasters have provided in the wake of this year’s natural disasters. Read More

U.K. to Refarm FM?

This appears to be a first: British broadcast regulator Ofcom is floating the idea of using FM radio spectrum to provide wireless broadband access in rural areas.

The United Kingdom is nearly 20 years into an attempted digital radio transition. It (and much of the rest of the developed world) has adopted a digital broadcast technology that uses spectrum outside the AM and FM bands. However, the development of digital radio is as stalled (or worse) in the U.K. at it is in the United States. Read More

Radio Station License Renewals Ahoy

This spring sees the beginning of the FCC’s license-renewal cycle for radio stations. Stations in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia must begin running license-renewal announcements next month, and file their formal paperwork to renew station licenses by June. (Other states will follow in batches through the next three years – find out the license-renewal deadlines for radio stations in your state in this FCC document.).

Although the license-renewal process has long been pretty much a pro forma exercise, it does provide an opportunity for the listening public to examine and critique the performance of their local radio stations. Read More