Interview with FCC Chairman
Kennard on NPR
Announcer: [You have stated] that Corporate take-overs are potential
Not just for the black community. They are the dangers for democracy in
Kennard: Today in America the majority of Americans get most
of their news and
information from broadcasting, and if the people who control those valuable
broadcast licenses are concentrated, if those licenses are concentrated in very
few hands, I believe that that does have implications for our democracy and the
ability of people to get news and information from multiple sources.
Announcer: Some people in the radio industry say - wait a minute
- the fact is
that radio business is healthier than ever. Radio stations are making more
money than ever. There are more ad dollars going to radio stations, so as we
see conglomerates buying more and more stations, obviously itís doing something
right for America.
K: I have no doubt that the radio business is more profitable
than ever, but I
believe that the public interest demands more from radio and that there is a
value in more than just profitability for the owners of those radio stations.
You know, I traveled around the country and talked to a number of people,
people in minority communities, who are quite concerned about the fact that
there are not minority owned radio stations and televisions stations in their
communities, because that means something.
In this market, for example, Washington, DC, when something of
importance happens along the racial divide, if you will. For example, when we
had the crisis in our government here when Marion Barry was arrested . . . a
very interesting thing happened. White listeners began tuning into black radio
in Washington, black owned radio. Because they were interested in hearing what
African American owned radio stations were saying about this issue. And that's
important, itís an important way that people communicate across racial
boundaries, using radio.
And I think that we are diminished as a democracy if the ownership
important engines of our culture and our news are concentrated in the hands of
only one kind of people. It is just not right.
A: [ ] So what can you do, as Chairman of the Federal Communications
to try to reverse those trends. Now the members of the Congress, a little over
two years ago, said - we want less regulation in the radio industry, and that's
one reason why conglomerates are able now to buy out so many radio stations.
Are you going to ask Congress to repeal that law.
K: I think that Congress spoke pretty clearly in the 1996 Act
and I don't see a
groundswell of support for changing that law right now. But there are some
things that we can do and will do at the FCC to create more opportunity for
small businesses and minority businesses.
One of the things that we are looking at is the concept of a low
service. You know, there are two ways to get a radio station. You can buy
one, that's become harder and harder with consolidation, or we can look to
create more licensing opportunities.
A: Let me just interject here. As I understand it, correct
me if I am wrong,
to operate a radio station now you have to apply to the FCC, you have to have
at least a 100 watt radio station, which is pretty powerful and this cost
millions of dollars to do.
K: That's right, and one of the things that we are exploring
at the FCC is
whether we could shoehorn smaller frequencies into the existing FM band and
create licensing opportunities. We are not talking about high power stations
that would cover and entire city, but you might have stations at lower wattage
that could cover communities or small towns, so we can give people just a new
opportunity to use the air waves to speak to their communities.
A: Yes, but I know that the rule hasn't been approved yet.
But if you did have
some sort of new policy, could I basically go out as an individual with my
neighborhood friends and for a few hundred or a thousand dollars create a radio
station with your permission?
K: That would be the idea to allow individuals and small companies
have the multi-million dollar resources to have access to the airwaves. It's a
very exiting place to be right now, here at the FCC, because there's so many
technologies that are exploding on to the scene and we shouldn't narrow our
focus just to AM and FM radio, because in some sense, as important as those
technologies are they're just one of many powerful technologies that are
emerging on the scene.
The Internet, satellite communications, a whole host of wireless
communications that are merging to provide consumers a whole new horizon of
choice for entertainment and information in society.