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Radio AM to FM: June 15, 2001

Cuts at Clear Channel Internet

Internet radio down but not out: massive budget cuts are the order of the day at Clear Channel's internet division. Just weeks after the company shutdown, programmer and personality Nicole Sandler announced last Thursday that the entire staff at has been fired ... including her. Then last Friday, programmer Mark Mendoza and personality Eveready Ed were let go from

Clear Channel Los Angeles group manager Roy Laughlin blamed it on the economy, pointing out that all you need to do is look at the shakeout in the entire industry to understand the problems these internet radio stations are having.

My how time changes things. It was just four months ago that Clear Channel Radio Online's John J. Martin announced that was making a profit. It was also four months ago that Clear Channel bought and as part of its purchase of Enigma Digital.

But before you think this column is about to degenerate into another Clear Channel-bashing fest -- and believe me, it is tempting -- I'm going to do the unthinkable: I am going to defend the moves.

No, I'm not going to say I necessarily agree with them. In fact, I tend to think they spell the end for Clear Channel's presence in webcasting, as cuts such as these leave the stations as internet jukeboxes with no real appeal.

However, the fact remains that internet webcasts are a business. Further, like it or not, radio is a business. And businesses do not exist to lose money.

It is not Clear Channel's "fault" that they are so big. That is the fault of our lawmakers in the Federal government who relaxed the ownership rules and allowed huge broadcast companies to develop and control our public airwaves. As large broadcast groups go, Clear Channel is probably no worse (and in some ways is probably better than) competitors ABC/Disney and CBS/Infinity. Believe it or not, even small independent owners have their faults. Many of the complaints I have mentioned in this column regarding Clear Channel are the same complaints I have mentioned since 1987, years before the company had any presence.

Don Page complained in the Los Angeles Times back in 1965 that "purposeful programming has lost at KHJ" when that station launched Boss Radio, now considered to be one of the few true legendary top-40 radio stations. And many balked when KFWB began playing that wretched Rock 'n Roll in the 1950s.

It is easy to point fingers at Clear Channel. The company owns over 1200 radio stations. And while that gives them a tremendous amount of power -- some say too much power -- it also leaves them extremely vulnerable to an economic downturn. If they do not cut costs, they may not survive. Like it or not, that's the reality.

For webcasting, its even worse.'s have become a no-mans-land when it comes to investment and advertising. Frankly I am surprised that Clear Channel put so much money into the webcasts in the first place. I doubt that Infinity or Disney would have even considered trying the experiment. While critics may complain about the cuts, at least they tried. For that you have to give them credit.

And consider too that the internet is itself a great equalizer. Don't like the new jockless Try, or any number of other internet radio stations and simulcasts from around the world.

This really isn't the end of the world. Perhaps its a time for some real opportunities. Any takers?


Copyright © 2001 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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