Manufacturing News and Promoting War -- Texas Style
by Josh Frank
April 1, 2003
“Here in America we have three most precious God-given gifts: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to use either one.”
-- Mark Twain
Surfing the waves of syndicated talk radio, you are likely to come across numerous conservative hosts railing progressives for their seemingly callow out look on life. Most likely it is the Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh or the Michael Savage type-- spinning their inflexible doctrines with habitual ease. It shouldn’t be surprising then that the pulpit from which these reactionaries spiel have deep ties to President Bush, and hail from the Lone Star state of Texas.
Clear Channel Worldwide Incorporated, head-quartered in San Antonio, is the single largest radio station owner in the United States, running over 1,200 stations. Their monopoly accounts for 9% of the total market-share, and over half of the talk show radio industry-share. Clear Channel’s CEO Lowry Mays delighted Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign by contributing thousands in soft-cash, with over $100,000 in corporate PACs. Ex-CEO of AMFM Communications, Tom Hicks, who purchased the Texas Rangers from Bush in 1998, is now the acting vice chair of Clear Channel. He too donated thousands to the Republican Party, in particular Mr. George W. Bush.
As Paul Krugman in a recent NY Times article states that this debacle could be the “next stage in the evolution of a new American oligarchy.” He may be right. Clear Channel stations around the nation have orchestrated the banning of Dixie Chick tunes from their play-lists due to their anti-Bush sentiments. Last week Clear Channel, who owns the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, forbade music artist Ani Defranco from making any anti-war remarks, while destroying thousands of leaflets Ani intended to be distribute during her performance.
This certainly isn’t the first time the strong-armed Clear Channel stifled any opposing views. In November of 2001, Clear Channel down sized David Cook, a progressive rap DJ popular among young hip-hoppers in the Bay Area. His outspoken criticisms of the Bush administration following the attack on NYC, were too much for ol’ CC to handle. They also pulled on-air ads in Ohio and elsewhere that criticized key Republican congressman for not pressing Cheney on his energy plan.
Surprisingly Clear Channel has managed to take their bourgeoisie mind-set even further. In response to the huge turnouts around the world opposing Bush’s onslaught in Iraq, CC has organized a couple hundred “patriotic rallies” around the country. They bill them as “Rallies for America.” These shindigs are far from simply flag waving get-togethers; they are clearly pro-war events. CC donates the money to make signs such as, “Lefties be happy, we have 200,000 inspectors in Iraq now,” or “Pack it up and go to France where you belong.” Along with donating the proceeds for signs and organizing such events, Clear Channel and their marketing firm have been using their radio power to promote these rallies. They not only advertise for the gatherings, but their news correspondents cover them ridiculously well, often with 2 or 3 reporters per 100 supporters. It is simply manufacturing news.
This shouldn’t be of great surprise, our media conglomerates are always under fire for favoritism and biased news reporting. But what’s the pay off for CC? Do they just do it because they love their Republican brethren? It isn't that simple.
After Congress enacted the Telecommunications Act of ’96, Clear Channel tripled their annual revenue and increased their station holdings by two thirds, nearly overnight. You can imagine Hicks and Lowry are quite interested in expanding their broadcast empire further by de-regulating the industry even more.
Last February the FCC, and Chairman Michael Powell, began meeting to discuss changing the regulations that limit the number of media outlets any given corporation can own. At those hearings, Lowry May said he didn’t believe it would be harmful or monopolistic if only “4 or 5” corporations owned all the radio stations in the US. He went on to promote the idea that “big media is better.” Perhaps he means more revenue is better.
The FCC Chairman’s father, Secretary of State Colin Powell, has been an influential voice in driving the United States into the bloody conflict in Iraq. Perhaps by manufacturing pro-war rallies, drowning the airwaves with conservative spinsters, and flooding Bush with hundreds of thousands of dollars -- they are attempting to buy policy -- hoping that the FCC relaxes certain barriers of media ownership, allowing Clear Channel to gobble up even more stations.
Past actions of Clear Channel indicate this certainly may not be a fabrication. If so, they’ll have expanded their news making business further, shredding our democracy along the way. If CC’s little game plays out as planned, their record of suffocating dissent and bashing liberals will reach unprecedented new levels.
If you, like me, disagree with any media conglomerate promoting war through a “Rally for America” front -- or infuriated by the idea that deregulating the radio market more, is a good thing-- or angry at Clear Channel’s threats to pull the plug on Ani DeFranco -- or banning the Dixie Chicks from their stations because they oppose Bush -- then drop their VP of Communications an email. Let her know how you feel.