Radio AM to FM: March 23, 2001
A Clear Abuse
Its not illegal to be a monopoly. But it is illegal to act as a monopoly.
Clear Channel Communications, the largest radio station group owner in the world with approximately 1200 radio stations in the US, is also the world's largest concert promoter. Combined with the fact that they are one of the backers of XM Satellite Radio, and its easy to see that Clear Channel is a clear radio monopoly.
Now it appears that they want to use their new found powers by making record companies "sponsor" songs that are played on company-owned radio stations. In the old days this was called "payola," and it was illegal. Now its called "sponsorships," with executive Randy Michaels telling the Los Angeles Times, "We've been moving very slowly in launching this initiative, trying to make sure we dot all the i's and cross all the t's in terms of the legal issues."
Here's how it works: Clear Channel will sell ads promoting songs and identifying the artists who performed the songs for roughly $1000 per spot. The idea is to add $20 million in revenue to Clear Channel's coffers using money that once would have gone to record promoters.
Will the companies pay? They may be forced to do so, as the power held by Clear Channel is hard to ignore: a song not played on a CC station is a song that may fizzle due to lack of exposure. According to the Times, record company executives are reluctant to buck CC due to its dominant market position in radio and concert promotion.
If its not illegal, it certainly is immoral, and it begs the question: once the plan is in place, will a CC station even play songs that are not "promoted?" And why is CC demanding payment for identifying a song or artist? BC (before Clear Channel), identifying songs was considered good programming, and trying to be the first with a new hit was the goal of every good programmer. You have to wonder: would the Beatles have ever made it in the United States if Clear Channel was around back in 1964? Michaels should be ashamed.
Remember that next time you listen to Star (98.7 FM), KIIS (102.7 FM) KOST (103.5 FM), KBIG (104.3 FM) or Mega (92.3 FM). Clear Channel has permanently scarred radio by even considering this legalized payola plan; its way past time for the FCC and the Justice Department to break up this monopoly.
KBPI/Denver disc jockey Steven Meade was sentenced on March 12th for an on-air stunt in which he had a live hen thrown off a 3rd-story balcony. Judge Alfred Harrell ordered Meade to attend 24 one-hour counseling sessions for people convicted of cruelty to animals, to pay $991 in fines and court costs, and to serve 100 hours of community service to benefit animals.
In a related story, WXTB/Tampa has suspended its DJ Bubba the Love Sponge (aka Todd Clem) after an on-air stunt which involved the castration and slaughter of a pig in the radio station's parking lot.
Both stations are owned by Clear Channel ...
Doug Brown writes, "Stop, hold the engraving on those Waggys. I just came across the most pretentious and ridiculous talk show I have ever heard. Its the night show (after 8?) on KFI (640 AM) hosted by none other than 'Jesus Christ.' You know, the son of God just hangin' with listeners. Who is this amateur and what is he doing? It is mind numbing to think that this 50kw station can be heard in Japan and Australia when the skip is in and the listeners will think this is LA radio. I guess the scary part is that IT IS LA radio and people actually CALL!!!
"My nomination for Worst Show in Any Format."
The new morning guy on country KZLA (93.9 FM) is none other than Peter Tilden, last heard on KABC (790 AM) a long, long time ago. Country music fans are invited to send their comments to me regarding the change.
Copyright © 2001 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.
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