Minority Ownership of Radio Stations Positions Programming

Ava L. Parker, president of LinkingSolutons, notes that a recent study of radio listening and radio formats found that minority ownership of radio stations results in more programming designed for minority audiences. The study, "Radio Station Ownership Structure and the Provision of Programming to Minority Audiences..." by Joel Waldfogel of the Carlson School and Department of Economics at the University of Minnesota, used station format, listening, and ownership data from 2005-2009.

The study examined three situations:

  • Minority ownership of radio stations affect on minority targeted programming in a market
  • Large-group ownership affect on minority-targeted radio programming
  • Ownership structure and minority ownership affect on radio listening

The study found distinct differences in listening preferences among racial and ethnic groups. For instance, a single format, Urban, attracted 51.2% of the black listening audience but less than 5% of nonblack listeners. Among Hispanic listeners, there is a parallel ethnic alignment.

Waldfogel says that "Spanish radio stations collectively attract 48% of Hispanic listening and only 0.6% of non-Hispanic listening... Spanish-language station audiences are 96% Hispanic..."

Though it's obvious that different ethnic groups prefer different radio formats, the study investigated the role of ownership in music and information targeted at their cultural group. Data used data show that of 8,236 stations, only 3.1%, or 260 stations. were minority-owned. Nonetheless, the data show a connection between minority ownership and minority-oriented radio formats.

Formats with relatively high minority ownership are also formats that cater to minorities and attract disproportionate shares of minority listening.

  • 16.6% of Spanish stations are minority owned
  • 11% of Urban
  • 4.6% of Religion

Many stations are owned not by individuals but by groups, and Waldfogel found that there is no single relationship between group size and the provision of programming of interest to minority listeners. What matters, though, are formats and programming.

"Members of minority groups listen more in markets with more stations targeted specifically at their group," he found. The study confirmed earlier work when it comes to listening preferences. "As in the 1990s," says Waldfogel, "blacks and nonblacks... Hispanics and non-Hispanics... have starkly different preferences in radio programming."

Urban, Jazz, and Spanish, are among the formats less commonly available. So listeners with those tastes in music, usually minority listeners, have a hard time finding what they like on the dial. In the 1990s, most minority-owned stations targeted minority listeners, but, as in the 1990s, most minority-targeted stations are not minority-owned.

Stations in large ownership groups tend to attract more listeners overall, as well as among blacks and Hispanics than do stations in smaller ownership groups. That seems all but obvious, but it is crucial, because Waldofogel also determined that "The presence of minority-owned stations in the market appears to raise the amount of minority-targeted programming."

The study provides an empirical basis for what many observers have known to be true, minority ownership matters to minority listeners. Simply put, more minority ownership results in more minority programming.

To read the entire blog and more about the study, please visit here.

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