Thursday, November 6, 2008


In case you hadn't noticed, there was a big ol' election last Tuesday, the results of which have Washington, D.C. (and the rest of the country, not to mention the world) buzzing. But what will a Barack Obama Administration and a new Democratic Congress mean for the music community?

We at FMC are expecting a positive impact on the music world in general. Keep in mind that we're equal opportunity wonks — our assessment is not partisan. But it is informed by the policy decisions of the last eight years, which created or maintained significant barriers to sustainable cultural communities.

There will now be opportunities to craft policies that encourage the flourishing of music across media platforms. From expanded community radio to more robust commercial broadcasting and broadband, musicians will likely benefit from more attention paid to the ways in which they reach potential audiences, and ultimately earn a living.

Check out FMC Analysis: Election Impact on Artists and the Music Community for a point-by-point look at what we think are the key areas for improvement. Then let us know what issues are most important to you in the comments field of this post.


Anonymous said...

You prefer the European system where companies like Vivendi control media and music? I don't understand how that's an improvement. Ruppert Murdoch has far less government regulation in Europe than in the US.

And I really don't understand why the FMC doesn't campaign to return American cultural icons like Elvis and Motown to American ownership rather than foreign ownership. Let's bring American culture back to America by banning the sale of American art and music to foreign conglomerates.

FMC said...

We don't prefer a European system — what we're hoping for is smart policies where government can productively partner with entities using the public spectrum in ways that a) increase long-term sustainability of those businesses, b) uphold their commitment to localism, and c) provide artist and audiences with a more listening choices.

In addition, we believe that the intelligent use of spectrum (LPFM on radio; white spaces for broadband, etc.) will grow the marketplace and lead to more business competition and diversity of viewpoints/perspectives.

What could be more American than that?

Anonymous said...

You said you prefer the European Union to the Bush administration. There is more concentration of ownership and less regulation in Europe than there is in the US.

You said: "where government can productively partner"

The US government doesn't have a good track record in productive partnerships. They either build bureaucracies and operate, or they regulate. We'll see if this changes with the deals they made in banking and insurance industries. The potential is to emulate the Soviet system more than the American system.

Regarding use of the spectrum, as long as it's paid for by advertising, it will be driven by popularity, not diversity or excellence. Ask anyone involved in ad-supported music.

Also, what about returning American culture to American ownership? Maybe a law that you can't sell American culture to a foreign conglomerate. Such a law exists for broadcasting.

FMC said...

The spectrum is a public trust; the FCC oversees the use of this spectrum and allows commercial broadcasters to essentially "rent" their licenses, provided they uphold the FCC's stated principles of localism, competition and diversity on the pubic airwaves.

WE think that and clearer policies that strengthen these principles is in the best interest of both the terrestrial broadcasters (who are facing greater competition from non-terrestrial, non-local media)and the public.

This is not a criticism of the commercial model — any advertising driven enterprise is going to have certain concerns regarding what programming works in that context — but it is becoming clearer that an increased community focus may be one way for commercial broadcasters to retain and even attract listeners.

Other parts of the spectrum that can be effectively used for the purpose of promoting localism, diversity and competition should be unlocked for public use where appropriate.

We haven't looked at foreign ownership of US cultural brands. While those are business decisions that may seem distasteful, they aren't the province of current regulatory oversight. We prefer to work within the system we have and promote policies that benefit today's musicians and the public.

Anonymous said...

"The spectrum is a public trust"

That's 1930s language that doesn't apply in the 21st century.

The government over 25 years ago gave up viewing the spectrum or any public resources (forests, land, water, etc) as a trust. Instead, the spectrum is something the government sells. They're doing it now, selling big chunks of the spectrum to cell phone companies. Radio companies should not be forced to operate under one set of rules while other bigger companies are allowed by the same government to use the spectrum without regulations.

Broadcasters don't rent. They are licensees. That's a different legal relationship. They own the means by which the spectrum is transformed into something of value. The spectrum is just air without transmitters, studios, and people. It is a public/private partnership, under which broadcasters follow the law, not some vague FCC principles.

"they aren't the province of current regulatory oversight."

They absolutely should be. If foreign conglomerates aren't allowed to own American broadcasting, they should not be allowed to own American culture and art. You preach about localism and diversity, while musicians see their work being sold out from under them to conglomerates outside the purview of their own government. Nothing is more important to the future of music to controlling your work.

FMC said...

Broadcasters broadcast, which is a key distinction. The portion of the spectrum where they hold licenses is used for a different purpose than that of the cell co.'s, who don't broadcast, but rather sell access to a means of communication.

That's what makes radio such a unique medium. There's nothing vague about the FCC's stated principles to localism, competition and diversity on the airwaves. The question is how to do this in a way that respects that unique public/private relationship that you mentioned. (Although earlier you seemed to be against any kind of Govt. "partnership" with private enterprise.)

It seems to be pretty clear that consolidated radio ownership hasn't really panned out. Radio still has an opportunity to be relevant, even in a more competitive environment, provided they focus on what makes this medium so singular. Internet can't BE local, can't help establish regional musical success stories, can't let people know the awesome stuff going on in their own backyard. Radio, on the other hand, is in a position to do all of that. And we happen to think this presents opportunities for sustained relevance. We love radio — and that's why we're not ready to give it up.

"Nothing is more important to the future of music to controlling your work."

That we can agree on.

Anonymous said...

"There's nothing vague about the FCC's stated principles to localism, competition and diversity on the airwaves."

Once again, the FCC principles are not the law. They are not enforceable, and have not been enforced because they can't be.

The FCC is also pursuing a policy of penalizing broadcasters for words that music artists say on the airwaves. Broadcasters are wisely fighting those fines in court.

"Although earlier you seemed to be against any kind of Govt. "partnership" with private enterprise."

I'm not against it. Just that experience has shown it doesn't work well, as with broadcasting.

"It seems to be pretty clear that consolidated radio ownership hasn't really panned out."

I don't think you can make that generalization. All media is having trouble now, including small individually-owned radio stations, newspapers, and even TV. Even non-commercial radio is laying off people because their donations have slowed down. People want something for nothing, and that's not good for anyone. Musicians are hurting because of that too.

"Internet can't BE local, can't help establish regional musical success stories, can't let people know the awesome stuff going on in their own backyard."

The internet has the ability to be either local or not. Local newspapers and even small housing complexes use the internet for local information. So the internet can be just as viable to expose limited interest music to local audiences. In fact, it can be far more efficient in directing smaller genres to their fans than a mass medium.

FMC said...

"The internet has the ability to be either local or not."

This is true to a degree. But when Katrina hit, everyone turned to the radio for emergency info. Unfortunately, the non-locally owned commercial stations had nothing to offer. That's just one example. Radio has a role to play in serving its communities, and has a unique history in this regard.

We're not against the broadcasters, by the way. In fact, we're on their side on the FCC indecency issue.

Anonymous said...

"Unfortunately, the non-locally owned commercial stations had nothing to offer."

That is absolutely not true. In fact, a very unusual thing happened, where competing commercial radio stations actually worked together and pooled resources to provide the most complete hurricane coverage possible. I don't know where you get your information, but the idea that commercial radio had nothing to offer during Katrina is absolutely wrong.

In addition. when a hurricane hit Houston a few weeks ago, my friends at the CBS cluster worked 24 hours a day to keep the town informed. It doesn't matter where the owner is. The employees are local residents, and they care about their friends and neighbors.

The problem that broadcasters had in Katrina and the most recent hurricane in Texas is that local and federal disaster officials don't feel that radio is part of the plan when disaster strikes. The government sees this as their role, and they're not very co-operative with local broadcasters in allowing them to do their job.

But if you do a little research, you'll see that these stations did incredible work during these disasters, and many were given awards for their coverage.

FMC said...

We're delighted to hear first-hand accounts of appropriate comm. radio response to Katrina. We had heard there were problems.

Thanks for the info.