The Situation Worsens – Telecommunications Act of 1996

Meanwhile, as Lake County’s micro station broadcast daily to the north part of the lake, back in Washington DC, a conservative political movement called “Contract with America” was sweeping congress, and the deregulation of radio ownership became the order of the day. The Republican congress, passed, and the Democratic President (Bill Clinton), signed, the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It was the first time since the 1934 that the act had been revised. And it wasn’t good news for local radio.

Up until the new legislation in 1996, congress and the FCC has watched carefully over the number of radio stations that one organization (or person) could own. Suddenly, overnight, all that changed, the rules were lifted, the floodgates opened, and there was no limit to the number of radio stations that an individual or organization could own. When the 1996 Act was implemented, there was a mad scramble by those who could afford to do so, to buy up every available station. On the commercial end of the dial, powerhouses like Clear Channel and CBS Radio soon boasted hundreds of stations in their pockets. Small, locally owned stations disappeared from the radio dial (including several in Lake County). On the non-commercial spectrum (88.1 – 91.9), powerful Christian non-profit national networks set the same course, and ate up every frequency they could find, virtually destroying the future possibilities of community radio in America. If the founders of community radio had been concerned about the consolidation of media, now they were truly alarmed.