FCC Asks for Comments on the State of the Audio Marketplace – A Precursor to Reviewing the Radio Ownership Rules?

The FCC routinely, at the request of Congress, does a study of the Video Marketplace. That study is submitted to Congress so that Congress can use it as a factual basis for any legislative issues that may come up dealing with the TV marketplace. The FCC has not previously done this sort of routine study of the audio marketplace. However, in recent legislation, Congress included a requirement that the FCC, in the last quarter of every even numbered year, provide such a report. Yesterday, the FCC released a Public Notice asking a number of questions about the marketplace, to which they seek information to be included in the report.

The questions asked include:

  • The identification of players in the audio marketplace, and a description of their business models and competitive strategies
  • The trends in service offerings and consumer behavior
  • Whether or not there is competition between the players in the marketplace
  • Ratings, revenue and subscriber information about players in the market
  • Information about investment in the market, and the deployment of new technologies
  • Information about what is needed for entry into the market
  • Information as to who has recently entered the market, and who has exited it
  • Regulatory barriers to entry and competition in the marketplace

The FCC is looking for data from 2016 and 2017, as well as any new information that is available from this year. What will this data be used for?

While this information is being requested for a report to Congress that may be used to craft legislation, the facts gathered for this report may well have a bearing on the FCC’s consideration of the radio ownership rules. As we wrote here, it is expected that the FCC will consider possible revisions to the radio ownership rules later this year as part of its next Quadrennial Review. The NAB, as we wrote here, has already weighed in with a proposal for a significant change in the local radio ownership rules. One of the principal issues in the debate about changes to the rules will be defining the appropriate market in which competition should be assessed. If the market is a broad one, in which all competitors for advertising dollars and listening time are assessed, ownership changes may well be justified. If radio is found to still compete only with other radio stations, then ownership rules may not be dramatically changed. This study would seem to be looking at exactly the same issues that the FCC will be considering in the Quadrennial Review.

Comments on the questions raised in this study will be due 30 days after the publication of notice of this study is published in the Federal Register. Reply comments will be due 45 days after Federal Register publication.