Had our government not allowed the corporations to take over our small and medium markets, there would still be a place for good people to work in the industry. Well funded local owners could weather tough economic times without carelessly firing people.
Another approach would be to say: Had those smaller local owners not sold out to the big corporations....
A few did not. Country star Buck Owens sold KNIX in Phoenix to Clear Channel. But he kept KUZZ in Bakersfield for himself. The money he got from the Phoenix station allowed him to hold on to the smaller stations for emotional reasons.
Lots of small companies were simply looking to get out. This was a trend that began in the mid-80s that involved many of the founding companies that owned radio stations in the 20s. Why? For a number of reasons. But in many cases, it was obvious that the days of smaller, more localized radio was over. The number of stations in most markets had more than doubled, increasing the level of competition. In an effort to cut costs, small local radio stations were outsouricing their engineering. This was the start of cluster operations, long before the 96 Act.
One other mistake made was when the government reinstituted the cross-ownership rules that prevented newspapers from owning radio stations in the same town. Lots of radio stations had been offshoots of their local newspapers. They were forced to sell, and often to people or companies that weren't as committed to local service. When you consider who in a local community is best suited to run a radio station, the obvious one is the local newspaper. But for 30 years, they've been prevented from owning local radio. That has hurt both the newspaper and the radio industry.
It's easy and convenient to blame corporate greed. But there are a lot of former radio owners living in luxury right now because they sold when the prices were high, and got out before the new technologies came in and took over. Who really is the greedy one? The buyer or the seller? I often read how their former employees wish for them to come back, buy back their stations at fire sale prices, and return radio to its former glory. I have no reason to believe anyone is going to do that.
But let's examine one well funded local owner, and see how he runs his radio stations. Dan Snyder owns the Washington Redskins. He also owns a number of Washington area radio stations. He has been cycling employees through them like water, hiring and firing GMs, OM, and on-air people. He recently fired a popular talk show host because the host was often critical of the Redskins. THAT is what you get from well-funded local owners.
The fact is that most of the corporate owned radio stations are for sale right now. You may not know it, but you might be able to buy a few at a good price. The bad news is that when you take ownership, you'll find yourself with many of the same problems that the previous owners had. Because the operating environment has changed greatly in the last ten years. Great programming and lots of local involvement is not the attraction it once was.
Ask yourself what you would be doing if you didn't own a computer and this message board didn't exist. The answer is you'd be listening to the radio. The reason radio is in trouble is not because of the owners, the programming, or the government. It's because we have other things to do with our time.