The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has lifted the ban on broadcasting the same programme (simulcast) on several FM and AM stations. The regulation was introduced in 1964 and has been updated several times (the last time in 1992) to take account of developments in a market where competition is increasingly fierce. It is estimated that in FM no broadcaster will be able to repeat the entire programming (until now the limit was 25%), but the greater flexibility should help to overcome the crisis, favouring format changes and facilitating the transition of medium wave channels to digital. Ultimately, it should be the service offered to listeners that gains. More details and official statements can be found here.
In the wake of the racial protests following George Floyd’s death, the iHeartMedia group launched an all-news radio for the black community. BIN, which stands for Black Information Network, offers 24 hours of news seven days a week and according to the promoters is “an objective, accurate and trusted source of continual news coverage with a black voice and perspective”. The publisher has also carried out a study according to which 86% of black listeners believe that this service is necessary and that they will probably use it as an important source of news, while 83% think that it provides information that today cannot be received on the radio or TV. The broadcasts will have no advertising, but will be funded by a group of companies: Bank of America, CVS Health, GEICO, Lowe’s, McDonald’s USA, Sony, 23andMe and Verizon, “who share and support the mission of BIN”. This line-up suggests that the “black” have been identified as potential consumers.
IBA (Independent Broadcasters Association) is about to be set up in the United States. The aim is to increase the impact of thousands of member radio stations when communicating with record companies, selling airtime for advertisements (from the radio and social network to smart speakers like Alexa) and negotiating savings on services (from accountancy to putting programmes on air). We put three questions to Ron Stone, the promoter of the initiative.
RR: IBA not only offers its members the sale of commercials that will be broadcast on 3.000 radio stations, on as many apps and Facebook pages, but also to reduce the fees for music rights by negotiating royalties as a group of broadcasters. What difficulties did you encounter when explaining your proposal? Wasn’t getting 3.000 “heads” to agree a problem? Or has the prospect of earnings (and savings) made prospective members more willing to listen?
RS: The goal is to represent the stations that become members as an unwired network, offering this network to clients that have a national presence. In addition, we will create a digital platform for all the members to participate in that will allow for the first time, a true digital sale opportunity by radio on a national scale to compete for digital spending.
RR: Could this model also work in other countries? Associations usually do lobbying or offer services, but none of them have thought of taking such an active role.
RS: I really cannot answer this as I am not familiar with broadcasting in other countries. We will not be a lobbying group. We will leave that to the NAB, unless we find that there is a particular issue that we are being harmed by and not fairly represented.
RR: In order to sell advertising for 3.000 radio stations, are you going to create an independent advertising agency or rely on existing structures?
RS: With an unwired network, it becomes fairly easy. It is an all or none sale. Clients cannot cherry pick stations.
The objectives of the Independent Broadcasters Association
Excerpt of the program of the association, from Radio IBA
The concept is to serve independent radio stations in ways we are NOT being served by existing organizations and provide independent operators with ways to drive revenue and achieve cost benefits from scale that cannot be achieved alone.
Below reflects my thoughts on what the organization would focus on right away and during the first two years.
Group employee benefits Better coverage and lower prices, and potentially add additional benefits for our employees.
Revenue generation An unwired network & digital platform supported by a national sales team to monetize for us.
Digital services group This would enable continuity across independent stations giving us the opportunity to accomplish double digit digital revenue through Web, Mobile, Alexa, & Streaming
Shared resources A system that allows sharing of that talent in non-competitive situations and reduces our dependence on national syndication that requires cash, barter and sometimes both.
Proprietary systems and services Under the umbrella of a member owned association, we can create proprietary systems that we control and eliminate some of the costly monthly per station fees for traffic, accounting, CRM, Yield Management, even automation and music scheduling.
This will of course take time, like eating an elephant, one bite at a time. But as independents, we are 7,000 stations strong, and multiply what each of us pay for any one service, it becomes crystal clear that through a membership owned organization, we would have the wherewithal to accomplish this, and the revenue growth and savings would be astronomical.
The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the largest Christian group of radio stations in the United States into crisis.
The Salem Media Group had a business model that protected them from the highs and lows of the advertising market. In 2019 they made US$79 million by selling pastors time on their transmissions to deliver their sermons. However, they certainly did not forgo both local and national commercials that brought in $68 million. Nevertheless, the Covid-19 pandemic caused their shares to plummet to 80 cents (they were at US$8 in 2018 and US$30 in 2004). Moody’s, an American credit rating agency, has classified investments in the company as high risk.
The Salem Media Group has a network of 3,100 radio stations (100 of which they own) with a guaranteed 298 million listeners per week. The board of directors have announced a dividend block, a reduction of 10% in managers’ salaries and they are now considering personnel cuts (a total of over 1,400 employees). In this article the magazine Christianity Today outlines the situation in-depth.
Nils Schiffhauer, a German radio enthusiast, has carried out a census of clandestine broadcasters. Financed by governments to destabilise inconvenient regimes, they rent transmitters mainly in Europe, as shown on the map drawn by the author, and send their signals mostly to Africa and Asia. There is an explanation of who is financing each radio station and who the target listeners are, as well as a short recording of the beginning of the programmes. It goes from Radio Erena, produced by Eritrean journalists in exile in Paris who are fighting against the dictatorial regime in their country, to the many stations financed by the United States Congress which includes those transmitting to Cuba, Iran and North Korea (which receives transmissions from seven clandestine stations).
The article can be seen here.