I began working in this media universe against a target so large you might call it a sitting duck, or a sitting gorilla, or a repulsive oozing horrible sitting mockery of what radio was supposed to be — none other than the Clear Channel Corporation. Clear Channel owns almost 1300 radio stations across the United States, in 248 of the top 250 markets, and only terribly effective grassroots organizing and a revolutionary lawsuit based on grassroots arguments was able to keep them from owning eight radio stations, two television stations, all the billboards, the nuclear power plant, and the daily newspaper in your town — and primospace on websites galore.
In my city, Clear Channel regularly spews hate on the airwaves, mixed in with top-40 music and surgically-inserted, blatant instances of payola. Groups like the Social Action Committee and a number of other organizations listed below have fought back against the corporation at its root causes. More examples below.
We can’t be afraid to walk the fine line between censorship and ownership here. As the tumult has risen about Star and Buc Wild, and the potentially criminal and certainly violent and obscene things he has said about a four year old girl, we have an opportunity to remind everyone that the reason that Clear Channel puts people like Star on the air is because they own many to most of the radio stations in our cities and they have decided that they are invulnerable to community complaints. We aren’t asking for the FCC to stop letting Clear Channel hire who it wants and let them speak their mind over the airwaves. We’re asking the FCC to give licenses that Clear Channel would otherwise abuse to local owners who must be responsive to the people of their communities of license, or they’ll lose their shirts, because people 1) won’t listen to that radio station and 2) make it expensive and taxing for that station to keep putting terrible content on the airwaves despite local engagement.
I helped work on nohateradio.org, where you can learn about the ways in which Clear Channel abused our public trust when it aired Star’s comments, and file a complaint on their license in your community. When Clear Channel’s licenses come up for renewal, these comments will give us the standing to challenge their right to our ears and our aiwaves. And when the FCC tries to pull another stunt like it did last time, and tell us that Clear Channel owning more crap is the best way to make sure we have the media we need to engage with our democracy, we’ll have the standing to challenge them in any venue, at any time.
Here’s some other ways in which communties have challenged Clear Channel’s license to ill:
In other license challenge efforts in October 2005 Youth Media Council (http://www.youthmediacouncil.org) tied Bay Area Clear Channel station KNEW 910 AMC’s broadcasting of racist, anti-immigrant, anti-gay content to the problem of consolidated ownership when they filed a citizen petition to deny against their license. This content inculded Bill Bennett’s infamous statements “Abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down,” and “Islam is a religion based on child sexual rape.”
In July 2005, Rick Delgado, the twice-fired producer of “Opie and Anthony” and “Miss Jones in the Morning”, was hired by Clear Channel station Wild 94.9 in San Francisco. Delgado was the guy behind broadcasting a couple allegedly having sex in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the one who created a song that made fun of Asian tsunami victims. (http://www.media-alliance.org/medianews/archives/001302.php)
Clear Channel’s ownership of influential stations and their abuse of the public airwaves through programs like Star and Buc Wild have led to diverse targeting from multiple organizations, including the Social Action Committee in Philadelphia, the citizen coalitionled by Bill Huston in Binghamton, and the REACHip Hop coalition in New York City have been making these claims for quite some time. (http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/view.php?id=10735, http://www.reclaimthemedia.org/stories.php?story=06/05/04/4026074)
Clear Channel uses its consolidated ownership to silence diverse and local voices when they are deemed to impact their market share or political position. After 9/11, Clear Channel corporate headquarters distributed a notorious blacklist of at least 164 songs deemed inappropriate for airplay, including all songs by political rock band “Rage Against the Machine” and John Lennon’s “Imagine”. (http://www.lipmagazine.org/articles/featwishnia_142.shtml). Clear Channel also ripped access to the 800,000 billboards they own away from anti-war groups in 2004 (http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0712-01.htm).
And here’s some evidence of what a local community radio station in the hands of people who live and work there can do for the powers of good: Jack Frost, WKUF-LP, in Flint, MI.
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