Ordinarily, there could be no obvious connection between the Rush Limbaugh, and jazz, specifically in America. But there is. And it's not good.
First, some background. Prior to 1996, the radio airwaves were tightly controlled by the FCC. There were provisions that prevented monopolies from forming; to insure diversity on the airwaves.
All of this changed in 1996. In 1996, the Telecommunications Act was signed into law. This law deregulated the industry; specifically it removed the statutes that prohibited one company from owning more than 3 radio/tv stations in any market. The original intent of the law was supposedly to spur competition and provide more diversity. In reality, the opposite occurred.
The old regulations allowed for smaller (niche) radio operators to be in the marketplace. The new rules allowed broadcasting behemoths like Clear Channel, Viacom, Salem Communications, Radio One, and other large operators to dominate a market. Instead of spurring competition, the large companies consolidated their positions, becoming bigger and bigger. bottom line is that deregulation has caused the lack of diversity on the radio waves:
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So what does have to do with jazz? Have you listened to your local radio choices lately? There is much more syndicated programming; the Dayton Jazz station just changed formats. That means there are NO jazz stations anywhere in the Cincinnati/Tri-state. (No, the "Smooth music station at 1480am Cincinnati doesn't count). The reason there is a lack of diversity is because three or four conglomerates dominate every market. So there is no chance for jazz stations to survive, even if there were listener and advertiser support.
One of the behemoths is Clear Channel. Clear Channel is going through profound financial difficulties; the local sports talk radio station (1530 Homer)fired all but one of their on air personalities. Radio One went through a similar consolidation with their talk radio; now programming more syndicated shows at the expense of the local on-air personalities.
Well, what does Rush Limbaugh have to do with it? At a time when Clear Channel is going through a profound financial crisis, causing more jazz programming to go off the air, they signed Rush Limbaugh to an exorbitant contract with a $100 MILLION Bonus!!!
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So, while Clear Channel withers on the vine, canning local on-air personalities, and virtually eliminating jazz from the musical landscape, they are letting Limbaugh get fat (literally) off the resources of the company. That is deregulation in a nutshell; choking the diversity out of the musical landscape.
I suspect there is a certain amount of irony. Clear Channel has not only spawned Rush Limbaugh; they have spawned other "commentators" like Bill Cunningham in Cincinnati, and Michael Savage nationally. Now it seems that the king "commentator" of all, Limbaugh, may be directly contributing to the instability of the company.
What about the internet? Prior to 2006, there were a multitude of internet stations; allowing niche markets to expand exponentially. this all changed in 2006 with the institution of increased royalty fees; spurred on by the big Radio Companies. This essentially shut down most of the smaller internet radio operators; decreasing the diversity of music.
In some markets, NPR, (public radio) is an option. Not in this market, save for WGUC digital channel 2.
What is the solution? It is imperative that we as musicians, promoters, and fans reach the next generation; to introduce and encourage jazz music among our young people! Take the time to introduce as many young people to jazz as possible. Use iPods, other mp3 players, and other novel ways of distributing the music. But make sure the kids get the music.
During the recent Presidential campaign, President Obama reached out to the youth through the internet. Now it is documented that only 27% of the country call themselves Republicans. Younger people have decided to follow the Democratic party in droves; this portends to change the electoral landscape for years to come.
We can do the same thing in jazz. By getting the kids involved early, we can literally change the musical landscape; rendering Clear Channel irrelevant.
And, by the way, make Clear Channel, Salem, and others who are responsible for the reprehensible state of our music, pay for their transgressions by boycotting their advertisers. (especially Limbaugh advertisers).
Now...go out and hear some live jazz!!!