Watchdog protests Cumulus swallow-up of Citadel


Free Press, which includes opposition to media consolidation among its primary reasons to exist, is not at all happy with the proposal to allow Citadel radio stations to be sold into the Cumulus group. It has asked the FCC to think twice about allowing the sale to go through.

A post from Megan Tady of sister organization stated, “It’s the same old song – both on the radio, and in politics. Another mega media merger is looming. Radio giant Cumulus is attempting to acquire radio giant Citadel, giving Cumulus massive control over the airwaves, and leaving the public with even less choices in programming and music on the radio. On Friday, Free Press filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission expressing doubt about the public interest benefits of the merger. If the proposed transaction is approved, the newly merged company will control 572 radio stations in 120 markets across the country, including eight of the top 10 markets.”

Tady concluded, “Radio consolidation typically results in increasingly homogenized programming, a reduction in the amount of locally produced radio content, and the loss of local news production. Free Press is warning that the Cumulus/Citadel merger would not buck this trend, but would lead to more of a bad thing: cookie-cutter music playlists, canned programming, and a loss of local, on-air radio talent that truly represents communities.”

RBR-TVBR observation: You may be against radio consolidation, or you may think it’s no big deal. Either way, this particular deal should be under your radar, because it really won’t change much of anything.

This is much more a horizontal merger than a vertical one – it basically combines two radio groups that were already consolidated within their own markets, and which had portfolios with minimum overlap. And if anything, the merger presents an opportunity to increase ownership diversity.

It takes two relatively large groups that are well-consolidated in accordance with current local ownership caps, and turns it into one large group.

But in the markets where there was overlap between the two groups, some stations will be spun off. And others are being spun off because they are in oversized clusters that are losing grandfathered status.

So the bottom line is this – if no single station were to be spun off from this merger, the sum and total of radio consolidation would actually be exactly where it was before the merger. But each and every station that is to be spun off (although there aren’t all that many) has the potential to go to a minority owner, a female owner or at the very least, a smaller owner. So there is no possibility of more consolidation, and a very real possibility of slightly less consolidation;