Clear Channel

"Clear Channel is not, by any means, the only culprit. It is merely doing what radio companies, large and small, have done (or wanted to do) for decades...

"Clear Channel is just the biggest radio company and, therefore, the easiest target... If we activists should ever bring down Clear Channel without reforming the entire industry, well, we'll just end up clearing the path for Cumulus or Infinity -- or perhaps some unwholesome combination.. to make trillions using the same un-American tactics" (Letters. Texas Observer, 5/21/04: 2).

"...Clear Channel's control over outdoor advertising, a little-studied but important dimension of its media empire.

Billboards were the object of public derision for most of the twentieth century, particularly since the 1960s, when a national movement emerged to fight their proliferation along scenic highways. Nonetheless, in the past twenty years the outdoor advertising industry has become a multibillion-dollar behemoth, evolving from basic highway signage to more than 1 million multimedia displays targeting consumers in trains, buses, taxis, schools, airports, shopping malls, concert venues and stadiums. The growth spurt, which accelerated between 1996 and 2000, has followed a pattern of consolidation similar to other media. Just three companies now dominate the landscape: Viacom, the already bloated media empire; Clear Channel, the largest owner of radio stations in the United States; and Lamar Advertising, an advertising-only company that acquired 538 outdoor advertising companies beginning in 1997.

"Outdoor advertising, unlike other forms of media, is not regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. Instead the task falls to the antitrust division of the Justice Department, which enforces general guidelines over market control and ownership...

"...The Big Three also raked in 85 percent of the $5.5 billion spent on outdoor advertising in 2003, with Viacom grabbing $1.7 billion, Clear Channel $2.17 billion, and Lamar $810 million. Clear Channel's share alone accounted for nearly 40 percent of all sales, making it the industry leader for that year. The company boasts that its displays, which total more than 150,000 in the United States, can reach over half of the total population, 75 percent of the Latino population, and seven out of every ten airline travelers. Clear Channel displays appear in every major U.S. city, with more than 11,000 in New York City alone, where the company owns more than half of all the billboards in Times Square...

""The more space they take up, the more cultural and social influence they wield," says Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media ecology at New York University. "And if [the companies] are, for example, very close to the government, they function as a de facto propaganda machine for that government. That's neither culturally advantageous, nor is it healthy in any civic sense."

"Outdoor advertising currently represents only 2.6 percent of total U.S. advertising expenditures, compared with nearly 75 percent for newspapers, television and radio combined. But in some ways, as Clear Channel Outdoor likes to boast, outdoor ads have a more powerful impact: "Outdoor is great because you can't turn it off, throw it away or click on the next page. That means your message is reaching consumers everywhere -- all the time, every day." Yikes" (David Montero. "Billboard Barons." The Nation, Sep. 13, 2004: 10).

"Clear Channel... the San Antonio-based behemoth's chokehold on American radio... bounced a pair of talk show hosts who opposed the war. Charles Goyette.. at Phoenix radio station KFYI... [and] Roxanne Walker.. at WMYI.. in South Carolina" ("Mercury Rising, Starr Gazing." Texas Observer, 4/23/04: 11).

Colby Glass, MLIS