Giving Compass' Take:

• The history of the radio industry consists of the consolidation of ownership, wealth, listeners, and broadcasted content. 

• How has the consolidation of radio ownership impacted the variety of available programming? How can philanthropy support small radio stations and federal policy that reverses these trends? 

• Learn why the FCC Lifeline rollback hurt households that need broadband the most.

Key Findings:
  • Fewer radio companies: The number of companies that own radio stations peaked in 1995 and has declined dramatically over the past decade.
  • Larger radio companies: Radio-station holdings of the ten largest companies in the industry increased by almost fifteen times from 1985 to 2005.
  • Increasing revenue concentration: National concentration of advertising revenue increased from 12 percent market share for the top four companies in 1993 to 50 percent market share for the top four companies in 2004.
  • Increasing ratings concentration: National concentration of listenership continued in 2005—the top four firms have 48 percent of the listeners, and the top ten firms have almost two-thirds of listeners.
  • Declining listenership: Across 155 markets, radio listenership has declined over the past fourteen years for which data are available, a 22 percent drop since its peak in 1989.
  • The Largest Local Owners Got Larger: The number of stations owned by the largest radio entity in the market has increased in every local market since 1992 and has increased considerably since 1996.
  • Declining Local Ownership: The Local Ownership Index, created by Future of Music Coalition, shows that the localness of radio ownership has declined from an average of 97.1 to an average of 69.9, a 28 percent drop.
  • Restoration of Local Ownership is Possible: To restore the Local Ownership Index to even 90 percent of its pre-1996 level, the FCC would have to license dozens of new full power and low-power radio licenses to new local entrants and re-allocate spectrum to new local entrants during the digital audio broadcast transition.
  • Homogenized Programming: Just fifteen formats make up 76% of commercial programming.
  • Large Station Groups Program Narrowly: Owners who exceed or exactly meet the local ownership cap tend to program heavily in just eight formats.
  • Only Small Station Groups Offer Niche Formats: Niche musical formats like Classical, Jazz, Americana, Bluegrass, New Rock, and Folk, where they exist, are provided almost exclusively by smaller station groups.