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Radio News (more headlines) 06-23-2004

Coalition Of Music Industry Professionals, Radio Broadcasters And Consumer Advocates Call For Radio Industry Changes

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June 21, 2004 - A Seattle-based coalition is calling for a host of changes to our nation's commercial and public radio landscape, including support for ownership limits, artists' rights, community media access, content diversity and local accountability.

Giving shape to widespread concerns about negative trends affecting the radio industry in recent decades, a coalition of music industry professionals, radio broadcasters and consumer advocates is releasing this week the Seattle Statement on Radio: a wide-ranging list of policy recommendations aimed at improving what the statement calls "the most local and ephemeral of our media, with a special ability to engage both our imagination and our sense of community." The statement, on the web at www.reclaimthemedia.org/seattlestatement, will be presented to the Federal Communication Commission in Portland on June 24, when Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein are convening a public town meeting to solicit testimony on issues related to media ownership consolidation and local accountability.

The Seattle Statement's numerous recommendations bring together for the first time the concerns of distinct constituencies involved with radio. Industry employees, musicians, community media makers and democratic communications advocates took part in a two-day "Fixing Radio" forum in Seattle earlier this year, developing critiques of contemporary radio into concrete ideas for improvement. The statement released this week is the fruit of that effort.

Specific proposals call for new ownership limits, expansion of noncommercial community radio (LPFM), and the prohibition of payola and monopolistic alliances between broadcasters and concert promoters. Some recommendations would require the FCC to change regulations or enforcement mechanisms, while others would require legislative change from Congress.

"Radio is uniquely situated to serve our culture, our communities, and our ability to participate in our democracy," says Jonathan Lawson, co-director of Reclaim the Media, a Seattle-based advocacy group. "Right now, few radio stations are living up to that potential, largely because hypercommercialism and corporate profits have been allowed to edge out the public interest as primary concerns for broadcasters. We don't just need a few policy changes here and there-we need a whole new set of priorities for our media. These recommendations are a first step in that direction."

"Consolidation of radio ownership has erected barriers making it nearly impossible for local artists to receive airplay on their local stations," says Ann Chaitovitz, the National Director of Sound Recordings for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). "In this type of environment, we would have never had the Detroit sound, the Philadelphia sound or the Seattle sound. Creativity often develops locally, and with consolidated radio ownership, this creativity is prevented from both receiving airplay where it is locally popular and from breaking out to broader markets."

The Seattle Statement on Radio emerged from the Fixing Radio Forum held in Seattle in February; a community-based discussion about media priorities which brought together commercial and noncommercial radio workers with musicians, unionists, listeners and media diversity advocates. The event took place at Seattle's Experience Music Project and was sponsored by a coalition of groups including the Future of Music Coalition, Reclaim the Media and the Pacific Northwest chapter of the Recording Academy. Officials from Clear Channel, the country's largest radio owner, declined invitations to participate. Community organizers in other cities including Washington, DC have indicated plans to produce their own local forums on the Seattle model.

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