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Radio News: Top two radio owners in U.S. will sell off hundreds of stations

Mar 26, 2018 10:50 pm
Forbes reports that now that iHeartMedia and Cumulus have declared bankruptcy, expect a sell-off of commercial radio stations around the country. In the past five months the two largest radio conglomerates in the United States have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. iHeart has 850 stations and Cumulus has 450 stations, and the bankruptcy proceedings will force them to sell many of those stations, flooding the market. It is not that radio is dying -- actually 93 percent of Americans listen to radio, more than have a TV (89 percent), a computer (50 percent), or a smart phone (83 percent). Instead, the giant radio conglomerates are dying. iHeartMedia used to be called Clear Channel, and after the horrendous 1996 Telecommunications Act was signed by President Bill Clinton, it began buying up as many stations as it could under that bill's deregulation. That led to cookie-cutter stations, programmed and staffed from afar, that listeners no longer care for. Instead, local stations with interesting content and actual human beings at the controls, are doing better with listeners. Gene Ely writes in Forbes, "The new-old model is local, local, local—stations deeply involved in their communities with local on-air talent that shows up at events and plays the music local listeners want. The DJs read the news. They talk about last Friday night’s high school football game. It’s the only way traditional radio can compete with digital." After the 1996 Telecommunications Act local stations were contacting pirate radio operators for tips, saying they were being forced to sell their mom-and-pop stations because of economics of scale. Similar market forces are now aligning for independent operators to buy commercial radio stations on the cheap later this year.
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