Voice in the Wilderness

The news about the "war on terror" your local newspaper won't print.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

"Fair and Balanced" on Your Radio Dial

The notice in Tuesday morning's Des Moines Register seemed quite innocuous: Paul Harvey was leaving the city's No. 1 AM station, powerhouse WHO, for another station. An annoyance to listeners who have remained loyal to the ABC gabmeister for decades.

But missing was the real significance, or as Paul Harvey would have put it: the rest of the story.

Harvey was being dropped because WHO, which is owned by Clear Channel, like 1,199 other U.S. radio stations, had signed an affiliation agreement last December with Fox News Radio, a fledgling operation at the time of the Fox News empire. Harvey is under contract to ABC, which has the largest number of affiliate stations in America.

At the time of the deal, Billboard Radio Monitor had this to say about it:
"Working this closely with a premier national news provider for the majority of our news/talk stations makes overwhelming sense," said John Hogan, CEO of Clear Channel Radio. "Because of the breadth of this relationship, our local news directors will get a more customized and higher quality national news product -- and that's great for listeners."

"This deal positions Fox News to become a significant player in the radio industry and is another example of our commitment to the medium," said Roger Ailes, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Fox News. "We look forward to working with Clear Channel Radio -- one of the most innovative radio operators in the industry." (Read the entire article.)
Well, "innovative" is certainly an interesting way to put it. Others would call the company "right wing."

For example, as USA Today related, when it ran a story on Clear Channel dismissing New York-based "shock jock" Howard Stern from its stations in February 2004 -- Stern insists it was because he slammed George W. Bush repeatedly on the air -- there was a definite bias among whom Clear Channel supported with its considerable cash:
Clear Channel, rejecting Howard Stern's claims that he was canned for slamming President Bush, says its radio network does not have a political agenda.

But new political contribution data tell a different story about Clear Channel (CCU) executives. They have given $42,200 to Bush, vs. $1,750 to likely Democratic nominee John Kerry in the 2004 race.

What's more, the executives and Clear Channel's political action committee gave 77% of their $334,501 in federal contributions to Republicans. That's a bigger share than any other entertainment company, says the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

In contrast, Viacom (VIA) executives and its political action committee gave just 30% of their $545,650 to Republican candidates. Viacom syndicates Stern's show. (Read the entire article.)
It also has been documented that Clear Channel actually organized the pro-war demonstrations in the days leading up the invasion of Iraq, as Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times on March 25, 2003:
Most of the pro-war demonstrations around the country have, however, been
organized by stations owned by Clear Channel Communications, a behemoth based in San Antonio that controls more than 1,200 stations and increasingly dominates the airwaves.

The company claims that the demonstrations, which go under the name Rally for America, reflect the initiative of individual stations. But this is unlikely: according to Eric Boehlert, who has written revelatory articles about Clear Channel in Salon, the company is notorious - and widely hated - for its iron-fisted centralized control.

Until now, complaints about Clear Channel have focused on its business practices. Critics say it uses its power to squeeze recording companies and artists and contributes to the growing blandness of broadcast music. But now the company appears to be using its clout to help one side in a political dispute that deeply divides the nation. (This article has been archived for pay-to-read only on the Times website, but you can read it free in its entirety here.)
Krugman notes that Clear Channel and Bush go back some ways:
The vice chairman of Clear Channel is Tom Hicks, whose name may be familiar to readers of this column. When Mr. Bush was governor of Texas, Mr. Hicks was chairman of the University of Texas Investment Management Company, called Utimco, and Clear Channel's chairman, Lowry Mays, was on its board. Under Mr. Hicks, Utimco placed much of the university's endowment under the management of companies with strong Republican Party or Bush family ties. In 1998 Mr. Hicks purchased the Texas Rangers in a deal that made Mr. Bush a multimillionaire.
At its best, the deal between Clear Channel and Fox News is crony capitalism. At its worst, it gives the "we report/you decide" network 1,200 more outlets to get its anti-liberal slant into public hearts and minds, Made all the more easy because there are few restrictions these days on how many stations one company can own in one market. So instead of carrying ABC News, it's possible that an entire community could get only one take on what's going on -- from the right. As Billboard Monitor notes:
ABC has faced some difficulties in pro-Republican parts of the country where news/talk affiliates have delivered right wing offerings such as Rush Limbaugh against ABC news content considered by some listeners in these regions to carry liberal bias.
And we here in the wilderness are left to ponder if we can ever again hear the truth about what's going on.

2 Comments:

  • At 5:46 AM, Blogger Kazzrie said…

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