A while ago companies could only own a certain number of radio and TV stations, so the
media landscape had plenty of independent groups running stations with DJs spinning real
records that they chose or recieved payola
(link) to play. Stations actually competed to get your ear.
The gov't dropped many controls and allowed more consolidation and station ownership. Say
hello to Clear Channel and goodbye to choice.
SUPER GREAT FACT SECTION
Clear Channel owns over 1,200 radio stations and 37 television stations, with investments
in 240 radio stations globally, and Clear Channel Entertainment (aka SFX, one of their
more well-known subsidiaries) owns and operates over 200 venues nationwide. They are in
248 of the top 250 radio markets, controlling 60% of all rock programming. They outright
own the tours of musicians like Janet Jackson, Aerosmith, Pearl Jam, Madonna and N'Sync.
They own the network which airs Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura, Casey Kasem, and the Fox Sports
Radio Network. With 103,000,000 listeners in the U.S. and 1,000,000,000 globally (1/6 of
the world population)... --ClearChannelSucks.org
END SUPER GREAT FACT SECTION
In the 70's, if record companies wanted songs played they slipped cocaine
(link) to the promoters and
DJs. This was of course against the law and now companies have to give hundreds of
thousands of dollars to middle-men "consultants" who "recommend" what
Clear Channel should play.
Don't start weeping for the record companies yet especially the ones who ripped off
artists for decades and fixed CD prices for the last 10 years because there's a bit of a
symbiotic relationship of mutual back rubbing here.
About 20 years ago, some smart radio guy noticed that you could put out an average song
with simplistic, unchallenging elements, play it over and over and over and over and beat
listeners into a coma-induced buying state. This is why great commercial music died around
the late 70's and that guy was promoted from the mailroom to the boardroom.
Where does the artist who puts his sweat and blood into songs fit into this?
First a company has to think you're marketable, since they are investing the cash. It's
least risky to stick with the proven sellers, so if you're not a clone of somebody else
you'll probably get looked over. If you don't sign the company contract then your band
will get no studio money and no money is put into advertising so people know you exist
outside your home area of Podunk, Arkansas.
The record company then has to pay CC, so you'll be heard on the CC-owned radio 27
quintillion times. If you tour, you'll need to play in the CC-owed venues and use CC-owned
promoters or your radio play will be cut. Local promoters now get to join in on the
beating and we get to say bye-bye to another little fish in the pond
(link). Keep your mouth shut and
don't get too political either or your support is gone as we shall soon see.
How can we make this even uglier? Let's throw in some gov't connections.
Secretary of State Colin Powell's son, Michael Powell, is the head of the FCC and its five
commissioners are holding hearings--a 1996 law said they must--to study whether
decades-old media ownership restrictions are suitable for a marketplace that has been
transformed by satellite broadcasts, cable television and the Internet. They have to
reconsider the regulations that limit the number of media outlets that a single
corporation can own. Don't think that CC isn't swinging from his wrinkly, Republican
nutsack. Powell said, "that if the commission can't justify a media ownership
restriction, the rule will go away."
Can you say--"expansion into newspaper ownership", folks. Here's some fun
reading material if you aren't cynical enough yet: (fun links)
The Dixie Chicks were removed from CC stations for exercising their anti-Bush free speech
rights and Howard Stern was removed from CC stations under the guise of cleaning the
airwaves up. Howard supports Kerry and his show is owned by competing station owner
Infinity, by the way. CC has supported numerous "patriotic rallies" and has some
noted Bush ties (link).
It IS a political world.
All hope is not lost because some are taking notice though: U.S. Senator Russ Feingold
(D-Wisc.) today introduced the "Competition in Radio and Concert Industries
Feingold held a press conference with representatives of the artist, consumer and labor
communities to outline his legislation which would help small and independent radio
station owners and promoters, and consumers by prohibiting anti-competitive practices in
the radio and concert industries. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate
Commerce Committee is supposed to be a co-sponsor.
Maybe we should just let traditional radio die like a gutted beast and move on to new
technologies like satellite radio? CC is buying into that also.
Certainly, one could argue that CC is just increasing market efficiency, but the situation
we're in is like in any industry that goes unchecked--those with money gobble up the
smaller fish and try to control all aspect of the industry generally with some very
questionable tactics like intimidation and illegal means. Eventually, you end up with
watered-down products and generic choices.
It's distictly un-American, but y'know, I have hope...
For every push in one direction, be it far left or far right, there are others who will
pull us back to the middle again. For every politition that tries to take away our
personal rights, there is another that will fight to get them back. For every Congressman
that supports corporate interests, there is another who looks out for the little guy.
Over time, our social beliefs, policies and mores tend to sway up and down like waves on
the water, but underneath the agitation is a calm level that we always return to and you
know what...greed fucks everybody in the long run.
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