Talk Radio Study Demonstrates Misuse Of Public Airwaves

Free Press and The Center for American Progress have teamed up to produce a report on tal radio that is very interesting. The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio. Some excerpts from the summary:

…in recent years, Americans listened on average to 19 hours of radio per week in 2006.
Among radio formats, the combined news/talk format (which includes news/talk/information and talk/personality) leads all others in terms of the total number of stations per format and trails only country music in terms of national audience share. Through more than 1,700 stations across the nation, the combined news/talk format is estimated to reach more than 50 million listeners each week.

And what options are presented to the public by these stations?

* Our analysis in the spring of 2007 of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners reveals that 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive.
* Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk—10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk.
* A separate analysis of all of the news/talk stations in the top 10 radio markets reveals that 76 percent of the programming in these markets is conservative and 24 percent is progressive, although programming is more balanced in markets such as New York and Chicago.

Yikes! This study demonstrates that consumers are not allowed choices of different opinions and analisys. These stations are licensed to use public airwaves. By limiting choices in this way, are they serving the public interest?
Is it a licensing issue? Again, from the study,

Ownership diversity is perhaps the single most important variable contributing to the structural imbalance based on the data. Quantitative analysis conducted by Free Press of all 10,506 licensed commercial radio stations reveals that stin, from the study,ations owned by women, minorities, or local owners are statistically less likely to air conservative hosts or shows.
In contrast, stations controlled by group owners—those with stations in multiple markets or more than three stations in a single market—were statistically more likely to air conservative talk.