Dave Allen dropped in on the offices of Oregon's two U.S. senators last week--and it wasn't to chat about the history of punk rock.
Rather, the former bassist for Gang of Four joined a contingent from the Recording Academy (the organization that puts on the Grammys) arguing that radio consolidation is squeezing independent voices off the airwaves.
The lobbying was part of a national campaign, but Oregon is a key state, as both Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Gordon Smith sit on the Senate Commerce Committee, which is hearing testimony on the Competition in Radio and Concert Industries Act.
Before 1996, a company could only own 40 stations nationally. New limits allow companies to own hundreds. (Clear Channel, for example, owns 1,225 stations, including 19 in Oregon.)
The bill introduced last week would freeze the current limits and increase federal scrutiny of proposed acquisitions by large radio groups.
The Academy told staffers for Wyden and Smith that more airtime for smaller artists could increase revenues for the 32 independent record dealers in Portland.
"Radio simply isn't an option for most regional artists anymore," says the Academy's Deborah Semer. "We want musicians to be able to sell records because they got heard on the radio."
Neither senator jumped up to co-sign the bill, but both were receptive to the visit. Wyden sees the radio market as a preview of what could happen elsewhere if the deregulation fans at the Federal Communications Commission prevail. "The FCC is considering the most radical consolidation of media ownership in the country's history," Wyden says. "I don't want this radio [deregulation] experiment repeated in other areas."