Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

The Influence of Organizational Structure on Radio Programming: The Case of Classical Music Radio

Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

The Influence of Organizational Structure on Radio Programming: The Case of Classical Music Radio

Article excerpt

During the 1980s, policy makers began questioning the logic of offering public subsidies to nonprofit broadcasters in the United States. This policy shift represented a small part of a larger movement toward a reliance on markets to improve economic efficiency. While economic theory postulates that markets lead to greater economic efficiency, empirical tests of the theory using data from the broadcasting industry remain scant (Berry & Waldfogel, 1999; Waterman, 1988). In order to partially fill this gap, I compare the programming of nonprofit, government-subsidized radio stations that compete with for-profit commercial radio stations in the same geographical market.

Since the late 1970s, regulators and legislators have grown increasingly wary of subsidizing economic activity. During various controversies involving public broadcasting, (1) legislators threatened to decrease or even eliminate funding for public broadcasting. Unfortunately, these debates made little use of any systematic analyses distinguishing nonprofit and for-profit broadcasters' programming. What little evidence exists shows relatively little difference between the outputs of the two organizational types (Waterman, 1988).

Economic theory provides a guide for what to expect in comparing outputs of the two organizational types (Andreoni, 1990; Hansmann, 1980; James & Rose-Ackerman, 1986; Steinberg, 1986; Weisbrod, 1988). Unfortunately, analyses have only recently touched on the competition between nonprofit and for-profit radio (Berry & Waldfogel, 1999). Given the ongoing debates over the role of nonprofit firms in American radio and television, and the shortcomings of current research in clarifying what nonprofit broadcasters produce, my research fills a need by producing a better understanding of programming competition between nonprofit and for-profit broadcasters. By using an unusual coding scheme, this paper clarifies the differences in programming between the two organizational types. I find that nonprofit classical stations program more nonmainstream programming than their for-profit counterparts. Moreover, they seem to demonstrate an unresponsiveness to listener preferences that their profit-maximizing competitors cannot afford.

The remainder of this paper is organized into four sections. The following section presents a brief survey of the relevant literature on nonprofit production as well as programming competition in broadcasting. I also include references to explain the support of various nonprofit broadcasters. This section also presents the theoretical underpinnings for the divergence between nonprofit and for-profit supply of goods. The second section describes the data and coding procedure used. The third section tests this theory, using data from classical radio stations in the Los Angeles radio market and in the nation as a whole. The fourth section contains concluding comments.

The Literature on Nonprofit Organizations and Radio Programming

Nonprofit Production and Broadcast Programming

The dearth of research on nonprofit broadcasters probably arises from its relatively minor role in the American media marketplace. Even though it attracts relatively small audiences, it claims to play an important role in providing varied and educational programming. This is reflected in the promotional campaign slogan for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS): "If PBS doesn't do it, who will?" This claim has had an impact: PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), National Public Radio (NPR), and Public Radio International (PRI), as well as their affiliates and members, have received federal and state support for programming. While this support has been threatened, it has nonetheless continued.

In order to better understand the behavior of nonprofit broadcasters and how their programming differs from their commercial counterparts, I examine the production of both organizational types. …

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