chapter  6
18 Pages

Radio News

It is difficult to generalize about radio news operations and news programs because they seem to be constantly changing. One statement that can be made, however, is that newscasts on most local radio stations are getting shorter and less frequent. The demise of the significant role that radio had traditionally played in covering the news began with the unfortunate decision by the Federal Communications Commission that radio stations did not have to provide news as a public service. So, hundreds of radio stations decided they could save a lot of money by ending their news operations, and they did. The majority of those stations are either playing music or are in the “talk” business, and that business is, for the most part, conservative. The easing of ownership restrictions over the years also played a large role in destroying the close relationship that radio stations traditionally had with their listeners because those landmark stations stressed public service and took pride in serving the community and keeping it well informed. People turned to their radio sets to find out about disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes, and routine matters such as school closings and traffic conditions. The shortsightedness of the FCC and the power of the broadcast industry’s lobbyists to influence Congress have put a great number of the nation’s radio stations in the hands of a small group of media giants such as Clear Channel which owns more than 1,200 radio stations. It dominates the audience share in 100 of 112 major markets. Another giant, Infinity Broadcasting, operates 185 radio stations, mostly in the nation’s top 50 markets. It reaches more than 76 million listeners a week in 40 markets in 22 states. The most positive thing to be said about Clear Channel is that it has become a darling of Wall Street because of its ability to make lots of money from entertainment and conservative talk while providing little in the way of pubic service. By eliminating many of the news jobs that once existed at the acquired radio stations and replacing the local talent with syndicated sound-alike package programming, Clear Channel has been able to keep its costs to a minimum. Quite frequently, there is no journalist working full-time at the radio stations during the day, and this is even more likely to be true at night.