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Casey Kasem & The Fight To Protect Local Radio Stations From Big Business Consolidation
"Casey Kasem and AT40 did not kill local radio. But more consolidation and national programming will." –Conversations In Advocacy #63
This week was National Radio Day—a day to celebrate non-profit radio stations and the small, independent radio stations that serve local communities. Almost 50 years ago, local radio was forever changed with the debut of "American Top 40," hosted by Casey Kasem. Casey was our first coast-to-coast DJ. AT40 aired on seven local radio stations in an era when local DJs ruled the broadcast airwaves.
Today, AT40 rocks on across 400 stations. Casey’s legacy is not just of top hits, but of a harbinger of things to come – consolidation and radio’s diminishing role as a local voice.
Is big radio getting bigger? https://t.co/2hTZbBJTCc
— GRAMMY Advocacy (@GRAMMYAdvocacy) December 6, 2018
Today, the top 20 radio companies own 2,750 radio stations—with many owning multiple stations in the same market. While there are still independent local stations and small ownership groups, the foundational idea that local radio stations should be local and diverse is cracking and, in some places, crumbling.
Large radio holding companies, like iHeart Radio, know that they can make more money if they imitate and expand AT40’s programming model – one DJ and one playlist that air on multiple stations across the country. The homegrown DJ is being replaced with someone hundreds or thousands of miles away. Contests and giveaways supporting local businesses are replaced with national advertising spots. News about the local fair is replaced with celebrity gossip.
It’s not too late to stop this trend, but the clock is ticking.
Music creators love true local radio and want to help stop the rush to consolidation and national programming. That’s why creators have supported legislation that would ensure nominal, flat fees for local radio stations, small ownership groups, and community radio stations to clear the rights for the artists’ performance over the air and online.
As the National Association of Broadcasters' (@nabtweets) CEO testifies in hearings in the House and Senate, their motivation to protect #copyright becomes clear as a one-way streethttps://t.co/NPnIkiMSpz
— GRAMMY Advocacy (@GRAMMYAdvocacy) June 5, 2019
Unfortunately, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has hypocritically opposed such legislation. Instead of working to help small stations, the NAB has been advocating to lift all remaining restrictions on how many radio stations a large holding company can own. If NAB were really concerned about local radio, it would be doing less to promote consolidation and more to help local radio stations, small ownership groups, and community radio stations stay strong and independent.
Casey Kasem and AT40 did not kill local radio. But more consolidation and national programming will.