Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Minority Broadcasters: "We Matter More Than You"

"Minority Broadcasters Ask For Bailout"

Who suggested any such rescue for white broadcasters like me? After nearly twenty years as a successful drive-time announcer in several middle to large markets, I was faced with either reading the writing on the wall or crying “unfair” and going on welfare.

So I put myself through nightschool at a local trade college for two years in Microsoft Network Engineering while working full time at a Clear Channel station by day. I started the AS degree in ‘06, after I saw how miserable the future of electronic broadcasting was. RADIO IS DYING, and you can talk to the thousands of announcers who have been replaced by voicetracking software if you don’t believe me.

Ad revenue has been drying up steadily since the internet came on the scene. The two largest radio companies in America, Clear Channel [almost dead] and Cumulus, have been a nightmarish revolving door of sales people for about ten years, now. The sales rep is tasked with trying to milk ad dollars from local businesses in a time when the competition for radio’s main attraction-music-is delivered with better quality and infinite variety thanks to the digital world we call the internet. The same is true for your favorite AM talk shows, of course. I have long said that the future of terrestrial radio is that of an Amber Alert/weather/Emergency Alert system here in America. Ugly but true.

We are the proverbial ice man in the face of the new invention, the refridgerator.

This current recession is only the final blow to the thousands of AM and FM stations across America that have been firing your favorite dj’s, overplaying stupid public service announcements because they don’t have a 30 second spot to replace them with, and trying to sell their entire stations for a decade or more, now.

Typical minorities looking for a handout will try to spin this as only a recent catastrophe being bore out on their “communities” worse than others, but the truth is that their time has come, and they are no more special than the poor white communities in Appalachia who love and depend on their local country radio stations. But you don’t see them trying to throw a pity party to rob our beleagured US treasury.

Minority Broadcasters Try Direct Appeal to Geithner, Ask for Industry Help Key legislators also ask treasury secretary to consider financial backing

By John Eggerton — Broadcasting & Cable, July 13, 2009

Fourteen minority broadcasters have sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner asking for help for their industry, which they argue is in danger of extinction.

That direct appeal for help followed a letter to the secretary from some key legislators including Majority Whip (and father of FCC commission nominee Mignon Clyburn) Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), and Democratic Reps. Barney Frank (MA) and Charlie Rangel (NY) asking Geithner to "pay attention" to the plight of minority broadcasters. That includes considering help to free up credit and financing government-backed bridge loans, similar to steps taken to help the ailing auto industry.

Helping the auto industry would help broadcasters by extension since, for many, the biggest category of local ad dollars is from car dealerships. But the broadcasters are looking for some direct assistance as well.

In the letter adding their voices to that of the legislators, representatives of Entravision, Inner City Broadcasting, and a dozen others, including National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters James Winston, outlined a stark scenario.

"Unlike the auto business, broadcasting has been healthy for many years and, upon a recovery, could shortly be restored to a path of growth with some temporary assistance," they wrote. "Given the global credit crisis, plummeting ad revenues, no-minority dictates by advertisers, and changes in Arbitron audience measurement, which have further deflated ad pricing, the short-term financial outlook for our broadcasting companies is not good. Many of us are now, or will soon be, weathering significant defaults of our credit facilities. Ironically, the loss of automobile advertising revenues, a substantial source of revenue for broadcast stations, is also weighing heavily on our businesses."

Without that help, they warned, minority ownership, already only in the low single digits as a percentage of all owners could sink even lower. "What will happen to the communities we serve," they asked, "if this once in a lifetime financial crisis completely severs our access to capital and we lose our stations?"

While they said they were not "diminish[ing] the worthiness" of other bailout beneficiaries, they also said it would be "unconscionable to have financial institutions that have accepted billions of federal government assistance foreclose on these vital American voices," voices they pointed out were the "the primary source of news and entertainment for millions of minority communities."

The FCC is currently collecting data on the number of minority owners. The broadcasters’ letter suggests that unless the government steps in that collecting process should be relatively easy since there won’t be very many to count. (source)

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