In Praise of the Broadcast Radio Licensing Model

Posted by Elliott Hurst

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Jan 30, 2017 9:53:44 AM



One difference between “terrestrial” broadcasters and their Media-Tech, internet-only, digital start up counterparts, is that broadcasters must adhere to regulations set by licensing bodies. This means "terrestrial" broadcasters are accountable to these regulatory enforcers, namely the FCC in the United States, and the CRTC in Canada.  



For example, “terrestrial” broadcasters are:

  • Obligated to uphold the values of the country.
  • Compelled to invest money back into the industry.
  • Required to advertise about, provide easy access to, and respond to feedback and complaints from citizens.


In other words, “terrestrial” broadcasters are held to a higher standard. We are fortunate to have a system which holds broadcasters accountable, while allowing them to have a say in how our media works and what content is consumed by the public.  Broadcasters power local brands that have created legacies in their communities and there is value in their history.  One of radio’s key strengths it is a unique “buddy” medium, a trusted confidante, to deliver relevant 24/7 content simply and consistently, something not easily achieved for a medium, without developing experience over decades.


This is not to say Media-Tech companies and content providers don’t have their value.  In fact, I appreciate receiving content on-demand and through integrated social channels. Plus, I look forward to new innovative ways to interact with content such as via connected cars, mixed reality, and chatbots.  However, as the relevance of Media-Tech companies continues to grow, should they not be governed by the same regulations as broadcasters?  

If you consider Media-Tech companies are adopting proven broadcast radio techniques including local ad selling, curated content and local content, while using local personalities to promote their brands, it is apparent they should be held to the same regulatory standards as broadcast radio.  Further, broadcast radio is quickly embracing best practices from the digital world including on-demand podcasting, video, and integrating social to drive tune-ins via websites and apps, yet are still required to meet the rules set by licensing bodies.

As both “terrestrial” and internet-only digital companies are leveraging each other’s most successful methods I recommend both entities should be playing by the same regulatory rule book. After all, both are after the same thing – listeners.


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Topics: Future of Radio

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