Pandora inches closer to radio station ownership with Wheeler nod

pandora and KXMZ 300wFor nearly two years, Pandora has attempted to close its $600,000 purchase of KXMZ, a Rapid City radio station. The market-leading Internet radio outlet has reportedly paid two-thirds of the selling price, as closure has been stalled by FCC radio ownership rules — specifically, a requirement that foreign ownership of American radio total no more than 25%. That is the case with Pandora, according to the publicly-traded company, but it cannot document its investor profile because of privacy rules.

So the situation has sat, but there are signs of movement now according to Bloomberg Business, which reports (from unnamed sources) that FCC Chair Tom Wheeler has asked FCC members for a waiver in this case.

Pandora wants a radio station to benefit from lower music licensing rates granted to radio stations. Beyond that, Pandora Director of Public Affairs noted that Pandora could do interesting things with music programming based on geo-specific listener data. “This move makes sense to us beyond the licensing parity alone. We are excited to apply Pandora’s insights about listening habits to music programming that will reflect local listeners’ evolving tastes,” Grimaldi told Bloomberg.

This is happening against a background of Copyright Royalty Board litigation, in which Pandora is arguing for lower webcasting royalty rates in the upcoming 2016-2020 period.


Brad Hill