Radio

Every One of Those [artificially scarce] Late Night Stations/Playing Songs Bringing Tears to My Eyes

|


Wondering why radio sucks in its Feburary "Why Things Suck" cover package, Wired reporter Brendan Koerner goes to the expert: our own Jesse Walker. An excerpt:

The sad decline of conventional radio is an Econ 101 lesson in the consequences of artificial scarcity — and a B-school case study on the limits of scientific management. The scarcity is the fault of the Federal Communications Commission, which decided in the mid-1940s to confine FM broadcasting to its current frequency range, roughly between 88 and 108 MHz. The FCC's spectrum-allocation rules, designed to prevent station signals from interfering with one another, further limited the number of broadcasting licenses it granted in any one market.

By the '70s, thanks to a fecund period in popular music, a generation of audacious DJs, and cheap radios, FM had become wildly popular. That made stations valuable properties — so valuable, in fact, that only large companies could afford to buy and manage them. "The legal cost alone of getting on the air is enormous," says Jesse Walker, author of the radio history Rebels on the Air. The government could have eased this situation by allocating more spectrum for radio use and increasing the number of licenses, Walker argues.

And read his Rebels in the Air.