This Just Out

This item came on the website of KDRT (“where the grassroots grow”), a LPFM station in Davis, California, courtesy of Radioactive Gavin Dahl, who began a Facebook post by saying, “Did you realize that over 25% of America’s journalists have lost their jobs in the past decade?” Yet the J schools keep cranking them out, much the same as schools turning out anthropologists despite a 5,000-year supply. There’s something quite ironic and a tad dishonest in there somewhere — colleges cutting secret deals to unload student radio stations while at the same time seeking to attract students into moribund fields of study. Gavin’s post reads as follows:

According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism: Over 14,000 journalists lost their jobs between 2001 and 2009 – that means roughly 25% of the industry’s news workforce disappeared over nine years. Also, minorities represented less than 9% of the radio work force in 2009 despite making up over 34% of the population.

As Laura Flanders said at the Grassroots Radio Conference in Humboldt back in May 2010, “There is a narrative that’s missing.”

The negative impacts of rampant consolidation of broadcast ownership is more evident now than ever. Since the 1996 Telecommunications Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton, the radio business has been eating itself, and it has gotten very ill.

Drowning under massive debt and desperate to cut more costs, Clear Channel laid off over 2500 employees in 2009 alone. Program directors, morning show hosts, production pros, news anchors — one newspaper called it a “bloodbath.” The amount of money Clear Channel execs saved over the next year: $400 million. Guess what Rush Limbaugh’s new eight-year contract was estimated as: $400 million. Ironic, don’t you think?

As writer Eric Boehlert of Media Matters pointed out at the time:

Clear Channel basically decided to give Limbaugh a 40 percent raise, which included writing a $100 million signing bonus check to celebrate his contract extension which could have saved maybe 1,000 Clear Channel jobs last year alone.

I just read an article two weeks ago about the latest round of radio station layoffs in Bakersfield, where local shows are being replaced with more syndication. A Clear Channel spokeswoman released this truly confounding statement:

“We have made some structural changes to extend our best practices across our organization and achieve a higher-quality, more consistent news product for our listeners.”

Say what?

Keep in mind that Clear Channel is the biggest owner of radio stations in the US with over 800 at its peak, but #2 is a company called Cumulus Media, which owns about 350 stations. #3 is Citadel Communications, which runs about 250 radio stations. They went bankrupt this past year and are now owned by lenders including JPMorganChase. Educational Media Foundation runs two stations, K-LOVE which is carried on over 400 FM stations and translators in almost every state, and Air-1 which is on about 75 stations. The Calvary Chapel-associated KAWZ from Twin Falls, ID feeds about 400 broadcast translators and 24 full power FM stations. So… I did the math for you, that means around 2300 radio stations in the US are owned by just five companies.

The problem is not all commercial media, but the problem is Big Media.

In the US and out of more than 1500 commercial talk format stations, there are less than 30 doing “all news.” Can you believe that? I’m about ready to get out my tinfoil hat on these numbers, I mean, why would politicians call for the defunding of public broadcasting while powerful corporations keep firing and firing and firing everybody in newsrooms unless there is an inverse proportionality between profits and an ill-informed electorate? The commercial broadcasters’ lobby recently revealed that they spent over $3.4M on lobbying Congress in just the third quarter of 2010…


One Response

  1. […] these cub reporters seem dazzled by some brave new world of journalism — despite the fact, noted here, that more than 25% of journalists have lost their jobs in the past decade. Radio, on the other […]

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