Friday, March 09, 2007

Diverse Programming

March 9, 2007

Today FCC Chairman Kevin Martin spoke ate the 2007 AWRT Annual Leadership Conference. Some of his comments and concerns should be noted by Sirius and XM, as satellite radio provides a viable platform. SSG Comments in RED

Remarks of FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin
2007 AWRT Annual Leadership Summit Business Conference
March 9, 2007
As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Henry. And, thank you to Maria and to American Women in Radio and Television for this invitation to be with you today. I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to you about the important issue of diversity; more specifically, about the importance of allowing diverse voices to be heard in media marketplace.

Satellite radio offers perhaps the most diverse programming of any radio medium.

Along with competition and localism, diversity is one of the three core goals that form the foundation of the Commission’s media policies, including its media ownership rules. The media touches almost every aspect of our lives. We are dependent upon it for our news, our information and our entertainment. Indeed, the opportunity to express diverse viewpoints lies at the heart of our democracy. A robust marketplace of ideas is by necessity one that reflects diverse perspectives and viewpoints.

A robust marketplace indeed exists, but terrestrial radio, which has over 90% of the market has failed to be as diverse as it could be. To be fair, satellite radio could become more diverse as well, but the diversity on satellite that exists is quite impressive. With a merger, satellite radio could broaden that diversity in programming.

In the past, AWRT has been active on the Commission’s EEO rules. The outreach requirements in the Commission’s EEO rules will help ensure that women and minorities are informed of new opportunities. I supported adoption of these rules. The EEO rules require broadcasters to engage in more expansive recruitment efforts and, in so doing, facilitate the ability of all members of society to learn about opportunities in the media sector. By choosing candidates from a larger, more diverse pool, broadcasters are better able to find the most qualified candidates. A more talented workforce leads to improved programming, which ultimately benefits everyone. Moreover, as AWRT has noted, while the opportunity for all members of society to work in the broadcast industry is important in its own right, it can also serve as a stepping stone towards station ownership.

While the EEO rules regarding the posting of jobs is nice, how well have they worked with terrestrial radio? Satellite radio offers programming in several languages, and to suit just about anything a listener would want to hear. Terrestrial radio follows the EEO rules, but in the end, the "good ole boy" network still wins the job.

Which brings me to my next point. In order to ensure that the American people have the benefit of a competitive and diverse media marketplace, we need to create more opportunities for different, new and independent voices to be heard. When you create these types of new opportunities, you also create new job opportunities in the broadcast and media fields.

A merger would indeed create the opportunities you desire. Already there are channels on satellite radio that are cutting edge in diversity as well as the type of programming offered. A merger would allow the bandwidth to be better utilized and would free up space to add quality diverse programming.

Part of the challenge in creating these new opportunities is the limited number of channels currently available on broadcast television and radio, and the high start-up cost of building your own station. For instance, the costs of constructing a full power FM station can generally range from $50,000 to $250,000. And, that does not even include the cost of leasing or purchasing the property on which to construct a radio tower or the cost of establishing and maintaining a main studio. Those costs alone can be millions of dollars. Constructing a television station requires even greater funding than that needed to build a radio station. As AWRT itself has noted, often times, access to capital can prove to be one of the greatest challenges to becoming a station owner.

Indeed start up costs are high. This is especially true for satellite radio. however, with better utilization of bandwidth there are plenty of channels available on satellite radio. With satellite radio, someone does not need to own the station. They can simply own the program, or become employed by the satellite radio company. Diverse programming can happen. The main reason that diverse programming is not more successful is that the audience is limited. satellite radio offers the ability to reach a national audience, thereby expanding the possibility of making niche programming a much more realistic proposition.

The Commission has taken some important steps to provide more opportunity in radio with the advent of Low Power FM. The Commission’s goal in creating the Low Power FM service was to create a class of radio stations designed to serve very localized communities or underrepresented groups within communities. Low Power FM provides a lower cost opportunity for more new voices to get into the local radio market. As compared to the cost to construct a full power FM station, an LPFM station can be constructed for as little as $10,000.

Low Power FM is limited by low power. A low power FM station in Boston is great for diversity within city limits, but what happenms when someone drives oout of, or lives out of range? All of the work and costs are concentrated to a limited audience.

Another idea to encourage new and different voices in the television industry is to allow broadcasters to lease some of their existing spectrum to small and independently owned business. Conversion to digital operations enables broadcasters to fit a single channel of analog programming into a smaller amount of spectrum. Often, there is additional spectrum left over that can be used to air other channels of programming. Small and independently owned businesses could take advantage of this capacity and use it to air their own programming. This new programming station would obtain all the accompanying rights and obligations of other broadcast stations, such as public interest obligations and carriage rights.

A wonderful idea, but how realistic is it? If a radio station has spare spectrum do you really think that they want to give it up to another radio station that will compete? Most media companies would need to make their 2 cents prior to giving up spectrum. Are we not simply adding a middle-man here?

Small businesses that are often owned by women and minorities would be the primary beneficiaries of this initiative. This would help ensure that viewpoints and perspectives of these groups are represented on the air. It would also create new job opportunities in the broadcast industry. And when we met recently, Maria noted that as the number of women working in the broadcast industry has increased, so has coverage of women’s issues.

There is already an example of this type of relationship successfully broadcasting another voice in a number of communities throughout the country. In January, Latino Alternative TV (LATV) and Post-Newsweek announced a deal that provides for carriage of LATV programming on the multicast channels of Post-Newsweek stations in Miami, Orlando, Houston, and San Antonio. LATV programming will be available in these markets this spring.

Thank you again for inviting me to be with you today.

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3/09/2007 04:44:00 PM

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