Vanderbilt Professors and Music Stars Testify Before FCC

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Two Vanderbilt University professors are taking on some country music celebrities in a debate over media ownership. Both sides will testify at a Federal Communications Commission public hearing Dec. 11 at Belmont University.

At issue is whether the FCC should change regulations governing media competition, especially how many television or radio stations a company can own in the same market. Celebrities such as Naomi Judd, Porter Wagoner and George Jones are scheduled to testify that media consolidation hurts the industry because the control of radio stations is put in only a few hands.

The Vanderbilt professors said they believe new media ownership rules could be an important vehicle to keep the radio music industry in Nashville and across the country alive. They contend mergers will help the industry adapt to technological advances like Apple‘s iTunes, satellite radio and the Internet.

“The world in which the distribution of music is dominated by radio stations and record sales is being transformed,” said Christopher Yoo, a professor of law and director of the Technology and Entertainment Law Program.

Joint ownership can increase program diversity, the professors said.

“Commonly owned stations in the same market move their formats ‘away‘ from each other to prevent cannibalization of listeners,” said Luke Froeb, William C. and Margaret M. Oehmig Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise at Vanderbilt‘s Owen Graduate School of Management.

The Vanderbilt professors are encouraging the FCC to let evidence, not ideology, guide the design of new regulations. “The greatest strength of the U.S. economy is ‘elasticity‘ – its ability to react to change. Over-regulation could change that,” Froeb said.

Yoo added, “Established players…who have a great deal invested in the status quo often resist regulatory and technological change.”

The FCC tried to relax local media ownership rules in 2003, but the changes were blocked by a federal appeals court panel. Monday‘s hearing will be the second of six the FCC is holding across the country. The public will be able to offer testimony on a first-come, first-served basis. The hearing begins at 1 p.m.

Yoo is one of the nation‘s leading authorities on law and technology. His research focuses primarily on how technological innovation and economic theories of competition are transforming the regulation of electronic communications.

Froeb has published extensively on the economics of competition law and policy. From 1986 to 1992 he worked as an economist for the U.S. Department of Justice. He was also director of the Bureau of Economics at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission from 2003-2005.

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Contact: Amy Wolf, (615) 322-NEWS

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