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Radio AM to FM: August 2, 2002

Michaels Leaves CCU Radio

Radio fans rejoiced throughout the land last week when Clear Channel Communications announced that Randy Michaels would step down as CEO of the company's radio division, in order to head up the company's new New Technologies division. In this new role, rather than destroying radio, Michaels will focus on destroying changing technologies, such as wireless broadband and satellite.

But sarcasm aside, is the move good for radio?

At first glance, it would seem so: Michaels is the man who helped make Clear Channel what it is today: a vast monopoly that gobbled up small radio groups and independent stations in order to literally take over the radio world. Clear Channel directly owns and controls over 1200 stations across the country, not counting those that it runs indirectly through local marketing agreements. Most of those stations run incarnations of essentially six different formats, often using canned voices on computer in place of local personalities.

Yet as with almost everything, its not that simple. Clear Channel is huge. So huge that they cannot change course fast; so huge that they cannot experiment with formats. Additionally, Michaels didn't act on his own: he certainly set the pace publicly, but he had the full support of the founding Mays family on every move.

Further, as at least one observer has pointed out, Michaels was the "radio guy" of Clear Channel. With him outside of the radio division, there isn't anyone to protect radio from the accountants. Not that anyone would notice ...

The most likely scenario is that noting will change. Expect a little less flamboyance on the part of Michaels' replacement, but I seriously doubt major changes are coming.

Mark Mays will take over the radio division while the company searches for a permanent replacement.

Free the Net

A bill is making its way through Washington that would make a few changes helpful to internet radio stations. The primary change: Businesses grossing less than $6 million annually would be exempt from paying performance royalties. Webcast royalty costs as set last month by the U. S. Copyright Office have already caused many internet stations to shut down, and the entire industry faces extinction if the fees are not lowered drastically.

The Recording Industry Association of America claims that the bill, dubbed the Internet Radio Fairness Act, would create an industrywide exemption for webcasters that would let them deliver all the music they want without paying anything to creators.

True, true. Just like broadcast radio, which has the same exemption.

For some reason, the RIAA recognizes that radio airplay helps sell records, yet it refuses to admit that internet radio does the same, only better, by focussing on new artists and music that can't be found on the regular broadcast airwaves.

I don't think I'll ever understand why the RIAA just doesn't get it.


Copyright © 2002 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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