More Stories Ignored by Media

St. Louis Journalism Review, December 2003 | Go to article overview

More Stories Ignored by Media


Below are additional reports collected by Project Censored at Sonoma State University (Rohnert Park, Calif.) under the direction of Dr. Peter Phillips.

While these additional six reports were not selected by the judges to be among the top ten (published in SJR's October 2003 issue), their coverage of the Clear Channel monopoly, the motivation for the Iraq invasion, the Pentagon's push for privatization, further safety net reductions and other revelations compel us to publicize these reports as well. For the full version of these reports click on www.projectcensored.org.

17. Clear Channel monopoly draws criticism

Clear Channel Communications of San Antonio, Texas may not yet be a household name, but in the past seven years the radio station conglomerate has rocketed to a place alongside NBC and Gannett as one of the largest media companies in the United States.

Before passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, a company could not own more than 40 radio stations in the entire country. With the Act's sweeping relaxation of ownership limits, the cap on radio ownership was eliminated. As a result, Clear Channel has dominated the industry by growing from 40 radio stations nationally in the mid-90s, to approximately 1225 stations nationally by 2003. Clear Channel also owns television station affiliates, billboards, outdoor advertising, and owns or exclusively books the vast majority of concert venues, amphitheaters, and clubs in the country. According to NOW with Bill Moyers, in 2000 Clear Channel purchased the nation's largest concert and events promoter, and in 2001, the Clear Channel did 70% of national ticket sales.

In 2001, Denver concert promoter, Jesse Morreale, sued Clear Channel. Morreale's suit claims that Clear Channel's use of its billboards to advertise Clear Channel-booked shows at Clear Channel-owned music is in essence a monopoly. The suit also alleges that Clear Channel stations have threatened to withdraw certain music from rotation unless the artist's book concerts through Clear Channel and play at Clear Channel-owned music venues.

Clear Channel has also drawn criticism for using "voice tracking." Voice tracking is when one deejay produces a standardized national broadcast and formats it into their radio stations nationwide-giving the semblance of a local broadcast. By this process, Clear Channel can produce its radio format in San Antonio, Texas and play it on its 1225 radio stations without regard to local music, culture, or issues.

In January 2002, a train carrying 10,000 gallons of anhydrous ammonia derailed in the town of Minot, causing a spill and a toxic cloud. Authorities attempted to warn the residents of Minot to stay indoors and to avoid the spill. But when the authorities called six of the seven radio stations in Minot to issue the warning, no one answered the phones. As it turned out, Clear Channel owned all six of the stations and none of the station's personnel were available at the time.

The FCC is doing very little about the results of increased media concentration. This may be a result of the relationship that exits between the FCC commissioners and the broadcast companies and their lobbyists. According to the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), media companies and lobbyists developed a very cozy relationship. As Chuck Lewis of CPI notes, "We found that 1400 trips [by FCC commissioners]--all expense paid trips--were paid for by broadcasters.

On June 2, 2003, the FCC approved new ownership limit caps giving a green light for further media consolidation, except in the area of radio ownership. In fact, the Commissioners actually voted to tighten some of the radio rules and Congressional Anti-trust committees are following up to examine anti-competitive practices in the industry.

But these days one need not look to DC to hear about the latest Clear Channel debacle. Just ask people and they'll recite the litany for you: the banning of the Dixie Chicks and more than 200 peace-related songs including "Imagine" by John Lennon; the many station-sponsored pro-war rallies; the intense union busting; automated on-air programming and the train wreck in Minot, North Dakota; and the "derelict rodeo roundup. …

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