Without saying so explicitly, new Federal Communications Commission member
Jonathan Adelstein indicated Monday that he opposes broad relaxation of
media-ownership limits and hinted that he would favor some tightening of
In a speech to the Future of Music Coalition, Adelstein said the massive
concentration of the radio industry following elimination of national
radio-ownership limits in 1996 has been a "canary in the mine" testing whether
the country should follow with similar deregulation of TV.
The Future of Music Coalition, holding its annual policy summit this week, is
comprised of musicians and others opposed to media -- and, particularly, radio --
The address was Adelstein's first since being sworn in Dec. 3.
"The FCC better carefully consider the health of that canary before we
proceed further because changes to the FCC's media-ownership rules potentially
could alter the media landscape as much or more" as the 1996 act, he said.
As a prelude to his keynote speech, Adelstein jammed on harmonica with
Lester Chambers on the rhythym-and-blues legend's classic, "People Get Ready."
Dressed in suit and tie and sporting wire-rimmed shades, Adelstein looked
more like a bad guy from The Matrix than a bluesman, but he held his own
during his harp solos.
As for the state of radio since the 1996 Telecommunications Act, he
questioned whether the ownership cap, which limits only local market ownership,
might need to be "modified."
He noted that in tiny Yankton, S.D., under current FCC market sizes, one
company could own eight stations there. Ostensibly, ownership of eight radio
outlets is permitted in only the largest markets.
"Clearly, there is something wrong with how the FCC currently draws market
boundaries," he added.
Adelstein also called a recent Future of Music Coalition report critical of
the 1996 law "a truly impressive study." In examining the impact or radio
consolidation, he said, the agency should not rely solely on traditional antitrust
analysis and measurements of ad-revenue concentration and format diversity as
some industry players contend.
The loss of localism, the level of local public-affairs coverage and the
impact on artists are among other factors the commission also should review, he