Clear Channel has been sponsoring “patriotic” rallies in various cities: is this simply an expression of concern for our troops or is there a political motivation? The fact that this is even an issue again demonstrates that the consolidation of media power into a very few hands is dangerous and improper:
- Some of the biggest rallies this month have endorsed President Bush’s strategy against Saddam Hussein, and the common thread linking most of them is Clear Channel Worldwide Inc., the nation’s largest owner of radio stations.
In a move that has raised eyebrows in some legal and journalistic circles, Clear Channel radio stations in Atlanta, Cleveland, San Antonio, Cincinnati and other cities have sponsored rallies attended by up to 20,000 people. The events have served as a loud rebuttal to the more numerous but generally smaller anti-war rallies.
The sponsorship of large rallies by Clear Channel stations is unique among major media companies, which have confined their activities in the war debate to reporting and occasionally commenting on the news. The San Antonio-based broadcaster owns more than 1,200 stations in 50 states and the District of Columbia.
….”I think this is pretty extraordinary,” said former Federal Communications Commissioner Glen Robinson, who teaches law at the University of Virginia. “I can’t say that this violates any of a broadcaster’s obligations, but it sounds like borderline manufacturing of the news.”
A spokeswoman for Clear Channel said the rallies, called “Rally for America,” are the idea of Glenn Beck, a Philadelphia talk show host whose program is syndicated by Premier Radio Networks, a Clear Channel subsidiary.
….”They’re not intended to be pro-military. It’s more of a thank you to the troops. They’re just patriotic rallies,” said Clear Channel spokeswoman Lisa Dollinger.
Rallies sponsored by Clear Channel radio stations are scheduled for this weekend in Sacramento, Charleston, S.C., and Richmond, Va. Although Clear Channel promoted two of the recent rallies on its corporate Web site, Dollinger said there is no corporate directive that stations organize rallies.
….Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, said the company’s support of the Bush administration’s policy toward Iraq makes it “hard to escape the concern that this may in part be motivated by issues that Clear Channel has before the FCC and Congress.”
Dollinger denied there is a connection between the rallies and the company’s pending regulatory matters.
Rick Morris, an associate professor of communications at Northwestern University, said these actions by Clear Channel stations are a logical extension of changes in the radio industry over the last 20 years, including the blurring of lines between journalism and entertainment. [Chicago Tribune]