Friday, March 16, 2007

Puerto Rico, The Market

It was only about a year ago that the FCC switched over to use arbitron-defined markets in their rulings. But among the 299 markets there is one that even the FCC agrees is the odd ball.

The Arbitron-defined market of “Puerto Rico” is about the size of Connecticut and with half a million more people. By comparison, Connecticut is parsed into the seven markets of Hartford, New Haven, New London, Fairfield, Bridgeport, Stamford and Danbury. somthing is already amis and I haven't even addressed topography.

The mountain ranges central to the island mean there’s almost no signal overlap among the three main population centers, of San Juan, Mayaguez and Ponce. Almost any operator intending to cover the market needs a stick for each market. But this creates an ownership concentraion problem. The existing rules are based on a 30 percent horizontal ownership cap.

Allow me to quote from
The current rules reflect numerical caps set by Congress in 1996. The restraints are based on a sliding scale that increases with the size of the local market. As a general rule, one entity may own:
A. Up to five commercial radio stations, not more than three of which are in the same service (i.e., AM or FM), in a market with 14 or fewer radio stations;
B. Up to six commercial radio stations, not more than four of which are in the same service, in a market with between 15 and 29 radio stations;
C. Up to seven commercial radio stations, not more than four of which are in the same service, in a radio market with between 30 and 44 (inclusive) radio stations;
D. Up to eight commercial radio stations, not more than five of which are in the same service, in a radio market with 45 or more radio stations.

The rules are well intended and definitely to more good than harm. Though it's often very rationally suggested that the initial losening in 1996 should be "undone." But, adoption of the subjective Arbitron market definitions left Puerto Rico in the wind in regard to even the loosened caps. Even NOAA needed multiple sticks to serve the island with "All Hazards" radio.

All along of course the Bush-appointed FCC comissioners have been trying to limit ownership caps entirely. This is not being done in defence of Puerto Rico. Mostly this is has been persued by lapdog congressmen the at the behest of their mediaowning campaign contributors. Thankfully in 2005 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit blocked their efforts. Of course FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin continues to be a heathen jackass of perviously unheralded proportions. But let's get back to the island pseudo-state shall we?

As I said the FCC has been known to grant exceptions in Puerto Rico. Most recently Arso Broadcasting was permitted to add another station to its existing cluster of 13 stations (6 AM and 7 FM) signals in the market. On the table was 102.3 WMIO, serving Mayaguez primarily.

But as exciting as all thi sis, why is it that comperably sized connecticut is sliced into 7 markets and Puerto Rico only one? Is it racial? I doubt it. The fact is, that Hawaii has a similar problem, and it too is "one island, one market."