Clear Channel Using Local Cred. to Push LegislationAugust 9, 2008 - by Donny Shaw
…And members of Congress are actually buying into it.
In this letter, acquired by OpenCongress user “”http://www.opencongress.org/users/steve_hunt_okc/profile">steve hunt okc," from Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) to Clear Channel Vice President/Market Manager Bill Hurley, Inhofe calls Clear Channel a “local broadcaster:”
Of course, there’s nothing “local” about Clear Channel. They are the country’s largest radio conglomerate, owning over 1,200 stations. They probably own all the big stations in your area; you can check here.
The bill referred to in the letter, S.Con.Res.82, also known as the Local Radio Freedom Act, is a counter measure to another bill in Congress, the Performance Rights Act, which would require AM and FM stations to pay royalties to the artists whose songs they broadcast, just like internet and satellite stations are currently required to do.
As you can probably tell by its title, the Local Radio Freedom Act is basing its push against the proposed royalties requirement on how it would impact local, independent stations. Indeed, in the findings section, the bill states:
>Whereas local radio broadcasters provide tens of thousands of hours of essential local news and weather information during times of national emergencies and natural disasters, such as September 11th and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as public affairs programming, sports, and hundreds of millions of dollars of time for public service announcements and local fund raising efforts for worthy charitable causes, all of which are jeopardized if local radio stations are forced to divert revenues to pay for a new performance fee;
Famously, WQRZ-LP, an independent, volunteer-run, low-power FM station, was the only station to stay alive and broadcasting at Hurricane Katrina ground zero. Presumably, this is the Katrina reference being made in the bill, and it is worlds apart from having anything to do with Clear Channel. Making the protect-local-stations argument even more ridiculous, the Performance Rights Act specifically exempts stations making less than $1,250,000 per year from having to pay royalties and allows them to instead pay a $5,000 flat annual fee. Not that you couldn’t argue that $5,000 per year is too much for a lot of small stations…
So, what do you think is going on here? Does Sen. Inhofe actually believe that Clear Channel is a “local broadcaster” like the ones the bill claims to be trying to save? Or is it more like the comment “steve hunt okc” left on the bill page: “Inhofe loves to let the ‘markets decide’ except for when such things might hurt the idiotic companies (Clear Channel) he loves?”