Thursday, October 29, 2009

Media Consolidation Stifles Local Voices

Originally posted July 2009
Dan Roberts, also known as “the voice of the Chiefs” for his long-time role as the Kansas City football team’s stadium announcer, has more than 20 years of experience in radio broadcasting. His morning show on KFKF-FM 94.1 in Kansas City ranked in first place among the adult (ages 25-54) demographic for six years, from 1990 to 1996. He had worked at KFKF since 1979.

Then, in 1996, EZ Communications, Inc., bought KFKF from Sconnix Broadcasting for $28 million. (The station was later sold to CBS and then to Wilks Broadcasting, the current owner.) EZ already owned another country station in Kansas City, KBEQ-FM 104.3, “Young Country Q104.” EZ CEO Alan Box said at the time, “We credit Sconnix Broadcasting and the Kansas City staff for the successful assimilation of these former rival country properties. We now enter the Kansas City market with a strong country duopoly.”

Unfortunately for radio personalities like Roberts, that sort of “duopoly” lessens competition and removes the incentive to keep top talent. Within six months after the sale, Roberts was fired from his job at KFKF. (Wilks Broadcasting has cut several other long-time radio hosts since acquiring ownership in 2006.)

Roberts moved on to other radio stations in the Kansas City area, including WDAF-AM 610, “61 Country,” from 1996 to 1999. (WDAF moved to 106.5 FM in 2003.) He also worked at KCMO-AM 710 from 1999 to 2003, where he hosted a popular afternoon-drive news program. The station now airs mostly syndicated talk shows and is affiliated with Fox News Radio and owned by Cumulus Media.

After leaving KCMO, Roberts worked in Omaha NE for three years, hosting programs on KEFM (now KQBW) 96.1 and on sister station KHUS (now KTWI, Bennington NE) 93.3, both currently owned by Clear Channel Communications.

When he was fired there, for the third time in 10 years, he decided that he was done with radio. He said, “I had to get out of that business and change careers. I had no choice. I had limited abilities since I’d been in radio for” so many years. He now works for an insurance company in the Kansas City area and continues to do voice-talent work, also.

Roberts pointed to several factors that have negatively affected the radio industry. One is media consolidation, beginning with the Reagan Administration’s deregulatory measures during the 1980s. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 furthered the consolidation trend; among other provisions, it allowed companies to own multiple radio stations in the same city, as long as they did not control more than 40 percent of the ad revenue in that market. The current economy hasn’t improved the radio climate, either, since ad revenues are down, and many radio stations are struggling financially.

The FCC’s 2007 rules changes mandated even more relaxed regulations, including fewer restrictions on newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership. The FCC had previously announced similar changes in 2003, many of which were later reversed by a federal appeals court.

Critics of such changes argue that they result in too much control by large media corporations and a shortchanging of audiences when those companies reduce or eliminate local talent and provide less diversity in news coverage and opinions. Commissioner Michael J. Copps commented in his dissenting statement regarding the FCC’s Dec. 2007 vote of 3-2, “Today’s decision would make George Orwell proud. We claim to be giving the news industry a shot in the arm—but the real effect is to reduce total newsgathering.” Copps continued, “Local news, local music and local groups so often get shunted aside when big media comes to town. Commissioner Adelstein [who also issued a dissenting statement] and I have heard the plaintive voices of thousands of citizens all across this land in dozens of town meetings and public forums. From newscasters fired by chain owners with corporate headquarters thousands of miles away to local musicians and artists denied airtime because of big media’s homogenization of our music and our culture. . . . From public interest advocates fighting valiantly for a return of localism and diversity to small, independent broadcasters who fight an uphill battle to preserve their independence.”

Dan Roberts’ voice is one that has been muffled in his local radio market due to media consolidation. Copps’ statement expressed the hope that Congress, the courts, and pressure from the public could repair the damage that he saw in the FCC’s rush to push through the rules changes. However, as Roberts’ experience shows, these most recent changes are just the latest acceleration in a shift that’s been going on for decades.

Dan Roberts is available for voice imaging and promos. He also has
an in-home studio. He can be contacted at


  1. Dan Roberts Passed this October after a brief battle with cancer. He is deeply missed.

  2. Dan Roberts Passed this October after a brief battle with cancer. He is deeply missed.

  3. Thank you for the update. I'm sorry to hear that.