The acquisition of Citadel by Cumulus in creating the #2 radio group in the US, and to FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, it is another example of the march to consolidation and homogenization of the media. However, looked at another way, the deal combines one “consolidator” with another and is therefore essentially consolidation-neutral. And it actually decreases consolidation at the local level.
The creation of the #2 group is a little unnoticeable in that Cumulus is already the #2 group – the addition of #3 Citadel does solidify Cumulus’ hold on the #2 slot by a healthy margin. Clear Channel remains #1.
Copps said, “The wheels of media consolidation spin on. Today the Media Bureau approves the combination of Cumulus and Citadel, the number two and number three radio companies in the country, creating a media giant that will own more than 560 stations. Earlier this year we had the huge Comcast-NBCU transaction. Last week we learned of another large company buying up seven additional media outlets. Time after time and in market after market, there are fewer independent options and fewer local voices. To pass FCC and DOJ muster, Cumulus-Citadel needs to divest only 14 stations. Applicants will put these stations in a trust pending sale to, hopefully, women and minority owners. But too often such stations just languish, unsold, in a trust. Just this month, in another proceeding, a petition to deny was filed as licenses in such a trust were being renewed after three-and-a-half years without being sold. Applicants also claim this merger will lead to additional funding for programming to serve local audiences, but chances are we won’t hold their feet to the fire if they fall short. So round and round we go.”
Continuing, Copps stated, “If the Commission is intent on continuing to bless consolidated control of more and more of our broadcasting outlets by fewer and fewer big interests, isn’t it time to ensure that we have some public interest guidelines so that consumers and citizens can be assured of at least some level of local programming, real news about real issues, independent production, and coverage of issues of interest to the diverse populations that make up local communities?”
RBR-TVBR observation: There are a lot of opinions out there about the way large national groups run their stations, and if that’s something you wish to criticize, then go to it. However, simply in the interests of keeping it real, we would suggest finding some other deal to attack on simple consolidation grounds. This deal really doesn’t do much either way, and in terms of stations owned by a very large radio group, it almost has to decrease consolidation just a smidgeon.
RBR-TVBR urges Cumulus to show FCC Commish Copps where he is wrong by building a stronger radio medium. Clear Channel either can’t or won’t as their attention is fully toward iHeart. So the generation of radio rests with Cumulus. Building a strong digital business and local business with leadership.