I don’t often write about our radio business in our publications, but when the Congressional meddling in what should be private transactions actually affects what you hear on the air, you should know what is going on behind the scenes.
This week, in Winnemucca, Nevada, we are changing the programming on KWNA-FM from country music to ESPN.
Now as good a move as that probably is from a business standpoint (we’ll get to that in a minute) the fact is that what is going on in Congress has forced our hand.
You see, the music industry—more specifically the record industry—has been dying for quite some time. They decided to fight the internet back in the 90s and, as a result, were simply unprepared for the day that most people bought their music online and stored it on a postage stamp sized player called an iPod. As a result, they are having their collective asses handed to them.
Their idea for recovering that money is to go to Congress and get Congress to mandate payments to them for the use of “their” music being played on the radio.
In a perfect world, run by capitalists, they would be laughed out of Washington.
But this is the same Congress which passed Obamacare and has a long history of , shall we say, starfornication. Simply put, Congress loves hanging with musicians while they indict Roger Clemens for telling them he didn’t use steroids.
So, our industry trade group, the National Association of Broadcasters, being none to smart itself, offers up a compromise. We’ll go along if you make the cellular companies put FM receiver chips in all cell phones.
We want to stop Congress from meddling in our business by getting them to meddle in the cellular companies’ business.
Just goes to show you how smart (and how lacking in cojones) highly paid executives are.
So, left to our own devices, those of us who actually own and run radio stations looked at the landscape and decided we could get along without music.
In our case, we chose ESPN radio for both our classic hits station in Alamogordo, New Mexico and our country station in Winnemucca, Nevada.
We, apparently, are not alone.
ESPN is becoming the hottest new format on FM for two reasons. First is that these guys are really good. And second is that ESPN is a tremendous brand name which allows us to do what we need to do which is to sell advertising that works for our advertisers.
Our friends in Reno also dumped their country station in favor of ESPN and CBS radio has made that same move in a lot of markets they are in.
The bigger problem out there is that there are a huge number of radio stations which don’t have that option and may well end up off the air because they won’t be able to afford to play music and there are only so many alternatives.
Now, in the real world, the record companies could get together with the radio stations and work something out.
But Congress is involved.
And, directly or indirectly, the same bozos who brought you Obamacare and won’t stop our so-called justice department from suing Arizona over their law to stop illegal immigrants from settling there are going to set the price for playing music on the radio.
The smart money stays away from nonsense like that.
Which is why, starting next Friday, in Winnemucca, Nevada, (and in a lot of other places) at the top of every hour, instead of hearing Martina McBride, you’ll hear, “This, is SportsCenter.”
Our business will be just fine.
But our nation is suffering from a serious case of Congressional meddling.