Prime Time Payola

| April 25, 2003

In the wake of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Clear Channel Communications has grown to become the world?s dominant force in radio, concert promotion, and billboard advertising. ?[The Act] opened the door for deregulation and sparked widespread condemnation from media activists who saw [it] as an attack on the public interest function of the FCC,? reports Stephen Marshall for In These Times. Clear Channel was a relatively unknown media player from San Antonio, Texas, until the Act passed. Since then, L. Lowry Mays who is an old G. W. Bush crony, has spent more than $30 billion to make his company one of the most formidable media brokers on the planet. Clear Channel?s most notable holdings are in the radio industry where they own 1,200 radio stations and claim around 50 percent of the U.S. audience share.

Even FCC chairman Michael Powell (son of Secretary of State Colin Powell), who media activists have painted as a unabashed ally of big business and the Bush administration, is concerned. Statements like this have helped galvanize public distrust of Clear Channel?s monopoly. And the company?s political stance?black listing alleged songs of dissent after September 11 and sponsoring pro-war rallies?have spurred media activists to rally against the media giant.

The company is currently wrapped up in a major congressional investigation of its business practices, and the FCC has blocked two of Clear Channel?s recent station transfer requests?the first time the regulatory agency has blocked such a request since 1960. With the option of unlimited expansion fading, Clear Channel may have a difficult time recuperating after experiencing a nearly 50 percent drop in its stock price since September 11, 2001.
-Nick Garafola

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