The New York Times today has an excellent article on the incredible shrinking audience for broadcast radio. Increasingly, the Times points out, Americans are tuning out their AM and FM stations and going elsewhere for music and news–to satellite radio, the Internet, their iPods and more.
More than 9 of 10 Americans do still listen to broadcast radio each week, but they are listening less. Americans aged 12-24 in fact listen to broadcast radio as startling 15 percent less than they did only seven years ago. “We’ve lost the hipness battle,” one executive is quoted as saying, along with a fair amount of stock value. The major radio firms are fighting back in a number of ways–but many are also selling stations.
The trend has obvious implications for the FCC–which has just launched an inquiry into, among other things, its radio ownership limits. For some time, the radio ownership debate has been focused on the dominant position of Clear Channel Communications, which is routinely trotted out as example number one of a Media Monopolist (oddly, since it holds only some 10 percent of licenses nationally). But dominance in broadcast radio today isn’t what is used to be. After all, what’s the point of being a monopolist when there’s so much competition? It simply may not matter how many AM or FM stations someone owns when their customers can so easily listen elsewhere.