Radio asked to drown FCC in data


Kristin Thomson, Education Director, Future of Music Coalition, wants the FCC to become data central for radio information – down to the level of knowing how much time is spent covering high school sports in the US.

The goal is to determine how much of radio programming is locally produced, compared to how much is syndicated and how much comes from a network. FMC believes that it is necessary for the FCC to have that information to inform its policy making.

FMC says it should also be made available in searchable, sortable database form for internal FCC as well as public research and analysis.

The information, if FMC’s dream comes true, will come from individual stations, a reporting requirement considered to be an obligation of the license.

FMC has done studies of radio programming, and decries the lack of public sources of information. It has used proprietary sources, but runs into the problem of licensing restrictions, and even had to throw one report away after failing to gain permission to publish findings that the owner of the data did not like.

Thompson anticipated that there would be howls of protest from the radio community that such a requirement would be onerous and burdensome. She said that problem will be solved by creating an easy-to-use computerized reporting form.

RBR-TVBR observation: There is no way to make such a report easy to produce, is there? It’s a day-in day-out minute-by-minute slog no matter how you slice it. It’s not filling out the form, it’s sitting there and figuring out the percentage of each and every day that goes to each and every program category that FMC is interested in – and it sounds like it’s interested in quite a bit.

Don’t get us wrong – we’d love to see the results of such a report. But there is no way it would be simple for broadcasters to provide the data. And since the FCC has no say in how a licensee decides to program a station, there is no pressing regulatory need for the data other than satisfying its own curiosity.

The bottom line is that the FCC traditionally keeps its nose out of programming – it’s a First Amendment thing – and this kind of data collection is utterly antithetical to that. We have to believe that broadcasters would easily get a requirement like this shot down in court, and we sincerely hope that we do not hear much more on this going forward.