Clear Channel: For Sale (and Selling)

Though Clear Channel may possibly be shopping itself around, the Mays family that runs the company sits quite pretty. Should the company be sold and Lowry and his two boys be asked to leave, their golden parachutes call for tens of millions of dollars in stock and cash payments each: even the taxes on that income will be paid for by the company.
There is some evidence that Clear Channel has begun quietly selling off selected properties, specifically involving “support businesses” and clusters of radio stations in smaller markets. This would make sense as the company cleans up its books to position itself in the best light for potential suitors to either take it private or buy it up to sell off piecemeal. Continue reading “Clear Channel: For Sale (and Selling)”

Clear Channel: For Sale?

Interesting stories abound in the news about the world’s largest broadcast/outdoor advertising/live music venue conglomerate entertaining the idea of going private, possibly selling itself out to a “vulture capitalist” firm.
Clear Channel’s official line on the buyout talks is that it seeks to “enhance shareholder value,” which is an eloquent way of saying there’s greed at play, and the typical sources of funding aren’t working out so well anymore. Continue reading “Clear Channel: For Sale?”

Quad Cities Pirate Takes FCC Head-On

Much in the spirit of Kantako, when the FCC paid a visit to Power 103.3 in Bettendorf, Iowa last week, the field agent was met at the door by a video camera. Two representatives of the station informed him that they were operating under the authority of 47 CFR 73.3542, which allows for emergency authorization of broadcasts in times of war or national emergency. The local paper’s article about the encounter does not note whether Power 103.3 has complied with the notification provision of the relevant Code.
As if that wasn’t enough, the station plans to preemptively strike in the courts, requesting its own injunction against the FCC to prevent a station raid. Not a lot of details on the grounds for this maneuver, but you have to admire the fight. Should things escalate, “we will probably move the station to buy more time. Then they have to start all over and come inspect that property and serve us another notice. We have back-up plans.” Continue reading “Quad Cities Pirate Takes FCC Head-On”

Tracing Media Industry Sock-Puppetry

Last October, Clear Channel CEO Mark Mays proclaimed at a luncheon of the Progress & Freedom Foundation that his company was at a competitive disadvantage to satellite radio, comparing the ~150 nationwide channels each satellite service offers to the eight frequencies Clear Channel may occupy in a single market (lest we forget Clear Channel owns more than 1,200 stations nationwide). This, coupled with other whoppers, constituted a call for the FCC to relax its radio ownership rules. Specifically,
In markets with 60 stations or more, there is room to raise the local ownership cap from eight to ten stations. In markets with 75 stations or more, there is room to raise the local ownership cap from eight to twelve stations. Continue reading “Tracing Media Industry Sock-Puppetry”

Clear Channel Tacitly Approves Newsroom Name Sales

Madison IMCsta turned pro blogger Kristian Knutsen has written a threepart series on Clear Channel stations in Madison and Milwaukee selling the naming rights to their newsrooms.
Kristian queried Clear Channel corporate about the deals and whether they’re part of any national trend: he got a response from someone at Brainerd Communications, a PR firm which specializes in corporate crisis management. “[C]orporate offices are not commenting. These were local decisions made by local stations.” Kristian thus surmises “the company does not disapprove of this new business direction, and considers newsroom sponsorships to be appropriate.” Continue reading “Clear Channel Tacitly Approves Newsroom Name Sales”

Newsroom Naming Rights: A National Trend?

There’s been buzz about two Clear Channel radio stations in Wisconsin that have sold off the naming rights to their newsrooms. WISN in Milwaukee christened the “PyraMax Bank News Center” last year; come January, anchors at Madison’s WIBA will report from the “Amcore Bank News Center.” WISN and WIBA constitute Clear Channel’s primary news presence in both markets and both stations carry conservative-talk formats.
The deals have been portrayed as a kind of throwback to the “Camel News Caravan” days. Sort of quaint, even. Any working/teaching journalist who believes this should hang it up and bundle themselves into a rocking chair to reminisce on the golden years. The menace of such sponsorship is the perception it stands to engender about who bankrolls your news. Not to mention that it’s tacky as f*ck. Wasn’t appropriate then, still not now. Continue reading “Newsroom Naming Rights: A National Trend?”

Clear Channel Pirates in Ohio?

Recently a radio station called “Radio Free Ohio” got some attention. It operated in the Akron/Canton area and once had a web site that generally bitched about the suckiness of corporate radio. Most importantly, the station allegedly interfered with the broadcasts of a Clear Channel station in the area.
Sounded intriguing, until an amateur sleuth discovered that the station’s online home tracks back to Clear Channel. Now CC has backtracked, nearly wiping the site and a related message board clean. Lest we forget that Jacor Communications, which was assimilated by CC in 1999, was founded in Ohio and now HQ’s just over the river in Kentucky. Continue reading “Clear Channel Pirates in Ohio?”

Denver Free Radio Packs It In

Sad news from the mile-high city: KCTS Radio, after a short but spirited game of cat-and-mouse with the FCC, has decided to retire the operation. From a communiqué first e-mailed (now available on the station’s web site), station spoke Carl Nimbus answers, in detail, the question, “So what happened to ‘we’re just going to keep coming back’?”
The FCC was all over us. More than they have the time and budget for. More than nearly any other pirate station in the country….[Denver FCC agent Jon] Sprague and friends were coming faster and more frequently than their counterparts do in markets like LA, SF, NYC, Dallas, Chicago and other large cities. Why would that be? The FCC responds to complaints from licensed broadcasters. They very rarely go out at random to shut down a pirate. Continue reading “Denver Free Radio Packs It In”

Clear Channel + Air America = Strategic Thinking?

Usually I stay out of the cesspool that is commercial radio these days but some recent news enticed me to dip a toe back in.
Air America, the pro-Democrat talk radio network launched earlier this year to counter the right-wing blather of Rush et. al., has lined up several new affiliate stations in the past few weeks.
Surprisingly, many of these stations happen to be owned by Clear Channel Communications – heretofore better known for their corporate conservatism (a “suggested” list of songs not to play in the post-9/11 aftermath, “Rallies for America,” a penchant for donations to Republicans, etc.). Continue reading “Clear Channel + Air America = Strategic Thinking?”