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.
This month, congresscritter Fred Upton (R-MI), an influential member of the House Commerce Committee – through which all telecommunications-related legislation flows – sent a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin demanding the relaxation of the radio ownership rules. Speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Media Institute, another coin-operated think tank, Upton justified the change this way:
The two satellite radio licensees each can program approximately 150 channels in every market in the country, compared to the current limit of eight stations that restricts the terrestrial radio industry.
So what specific change would Upton like to see? It sounds familiar:
In markets with 60 or more stations, allowing a single entity to control 10 stations would mean that no one entity would be able to control more than 17% of that market. If ownership levels change from 8 to 12 in the seven markets with 75 or more stations, no single entity will own more than 15% of the stations in that market.
Three days before Upton’s remarks, the executives running the Media Instutute scored an op-ed in a trade publication calling this particular proposal “a reasonable and even conservative adjustment” to the radio ownership rules.
According to, the “TV/Movies/Music” industry (of which broadcasting is considered a part) is Upton’s #1 donor in this midterm election cycle, giving him nearly twice as much campaign cash as any other sector of corporate America. I’m sure the $14,500 in direct donations and the $10,250 in contributions to Upton’s PAC this cycle from the NAB (Upton’s third-largest overall financial supporter) and Clear Channel also reduced the discomfort of Mark Mays’ hand going far enough up Upton’s ass to work his mouth.