Clear Channel Communications, Inc. is an American mass media company headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. Founded in 1972 by Lowry Mays and B. J. "Red" McCombs, the company was taken private by Bain Capital, LLC and Thomas H. Lee Partners in a leveraged buyout in 2008. As a result, the company now operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of CC Media Holdings, Inc.
|Traded as||OTCQB: CCMO
(CC Media Holdings, Inc.)
(Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, Inc.)
|Predecessor(s)||San Antonio Broadcasting Company|
B. J. "Red" McCombs
|Headquarters||San Antonio, Texas, United States|
|Key people||Bob Pittman, CEO
(CC Media Holdings, Inc.)
John Hogan, Chairman/CEO
(Clear Channel Media and Entertainment)
|Products||Radio broadcasting, outdoor advertising|
|Revenue||US$ 6.246 billion (2012)|
|Operating income||US$ 1.070 billion (2012)|
|Net income||US$ -424.4 million (2012)|
|Total assets||US$ 16.292 billion (2012)|
|Total equity||US$ -8.299 billion (2012)|
|Owner(s)||Bain Capital, LLC
Thomas H. Lee Partners
|Employees||20,800 (Dec 2012)|
|Parent||CC Media Holdings, Inc.|
|Divisions||Clear Channel Media and Entertainment
(formerly Clear Channel Radio)
|Subsidiaries||Clear Channel Broadcasting, Inc.
Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, Inc.
Clear Channel Communications, Inc. is an American mass media company headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. Founded in 1972 by Lowry Mays and B. J. "Red" McCombs, the company was taken private by Bain Capital, LLC and Thomas H. Lee Partners in a leveraged buyout in 2008. As a result, the company now operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of CC Media Holdings, Inc.
Clear Channel specializes in radio broadcasting through division Clear Channel Media and Entertainment (formerly Clear Channel Radio) and subsidiary Clear Channel Broadcasting, Inc.; the company also specializes in outdoor advertising through subsidiary Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, Inc. Clear Channel currently owns 850 full-power AM and FM radio stations in the U.S., making it the nation's largest owner of such properties. Additionally, the company leases twelve channels on XM Satellite Radio, and has expanded its online presence through the iHeartRadio platform. Clear Channel also owned several television stations until they were sold off to Newport Television in 2008.
The term "clear channel" comes from AM broadcasting, referring to a channel (frequency) on which only one station transmits. In U.S. broadcasting history, "clear channel" (or class I-A) stations had exclusive rights to their frequencies throughout most of the continent at night, when AM signals travel very far due to skywave. WOAI in San Antonio, Clear Channel's flagship station, was such a station.
Clear Channel Communications purchased its first FM station in San Antonio in 1972. The company purchased the second "clear channel" AM station WOAI in 1975. In 1976, the company purchased its first stations outside of San Antonio. KXXO AM and KMOD FM in Tulsa were acquired under the name "San Antonio Broadcasting" (same as KEEZ). Stations were also added in Port Arthur, TX (KPAC-AM-FM from Port Arthur College) and El Paso, Texas (KELP AM (now KQBU AM) from John Walton, Jr.). In 1992, the U.S. Congress relaxed radio ownership rules slightly, allowing the company to acquire more than 2 stations per market. By 1995, Clear Channel owned 43 radio stations and 16 television stations. When the Telecommunications Act of 1996 became law the act deregulated media ownership, allowing a company to own more stations than previously. Clear Channel went on a subsequent buying spree, purchasing more than 70 other media companies and individual stations.
In a few cases, following purchase of a competitor, Clear Channel was forced to divest some of its stations, as it was above the legal thresholds in some cities. In 2005, the courts ruled that Clear Channel must also divest itself of some "border blaster" radio stations in international border cities, such as the alternative rock radio station XETRA-FM ("91X") in Tijuana, Baja California/San Diego.
In 1998 it made its first move outside of the United States when it acquired the leading UK outdoor advertising company More Group plc, which was led by Roger Parry; Clear Channel went on to buy many other outdoor advertising, radio broadcasting, and live events companies around the world, which were then re-branded Clear Channel International. These included a 51% stake in Clear Media Ltd. in China.
R. Steven Hicks and Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst began Capstar Broadcasting in 1996 and a year later had become the largest owner of radio stations in the country, with 243 stations in all. In August 1997, Capstar and Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst announced plans to acquire SFX Broadcasting Inc., with the resulting company owning 314 stations in 79 markets and ranking as the third-largest radio group by income. A year later, Chancellor Media Corporation and Capstar Broadcasting Corporation announced a merger that would result in Chancellor Media owning 463 stations in 105 markets once the deal was completed in second quarter 1999. Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst owned 59 percent of Capstar, with 355 stations in 83 markets, and was the largest single owner of Chancellor (which had 108 stations in 22 markets), with 15 percent of the stock. Chancellor Media later became AMFM Inc., which was acquired by Clear Channel in a deal announced October 3, 1999, and valued at $17.4 billion. The resulting company would own 830 radio stations, 19 television stations, and over 425,000 outdoor displays in 32 countries.
In 2005 Clear Channel Communications split into three separate companies. Clear Channel Communications was a radio broadcaster; Clear Channel Outdoor was out-of-home advertising; and Live Nation was live events. The Mays family remained in effective control of all three, and held key executive roles in each (with Mark Mays as CEO of both radio and outdoor and Randall Mays as Chairman of Live Nation).
On November 16, 2006, Clear Channel announced plans to go private, being bought out by two private-equity firms, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital Partners for $18.7 billion, which is just under a 10 percent premium above its closing price of $35.36 a share on November 16 (the deal values Clear Channel at $37.60 per share). The new ownership of Clear Channel has also announced that all of its TV stations were for sale, as well as 448 radio stations that were outside of the top 100 markets. All of the TV stations and 161 of the radio stations were sold to a Providence Equity Partners, a private-equity firm, on April 23, 2007, pending FCC approval.
On July 24, 2008, Clear Channel held a special shareholder meeting, during which the majority of shareholders accepted a revised $36-per-share offer from Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners. The company announced on July 30 that it would offer shareholders either $36 in cash or one share of CC Media Class A common stock for each share of Clear Channel common stock held.
In early 2010 it was announced that the company was facing bankruptcy due to its "crippling debt."
After 21 years, Mark Mays stepped down as President and CEO of Clear Channel on June 23, 2010. Mays will remain as Chairman of the Board, a position he has held for a year prior. The Board engaged Egon Zehnder International, a leading executive search firm, to lead the search for a new CEO. On October 2, 2011, Robert W. "Bob" Pittman was named CEO of Clear Channel.
On Friday, November 17, 2006, Clear Channel announced that it was going private and selling off almost one-third of its radio assets, according to The Washington Post and DHM. The buyers, led by Bain Capital Partners and Thomas H. Lee Partners, agreed to pay $26.7 billion for the company. In a separate transaction also announced on November 16, 2006, Clear Channel said it would seek buyers for all of its television stations and 539 of its smaller radio stations, presumably because the private-equity buyers are not interested in owning television or small-market radio. Over a hundred stations have already been assigned to Aloha Station Trust, LLC upon the consummation of the merger. The television stations were ultimately sold to Newport Television.
On September 25, 2007, the shareholders approved of the buyout, allowing Clear Channel to proceed with being taken private, ending 35 years as a public company.
Due to the recent credit market crunch of 2007, Clear Channel has ended up with rejected sales of its radio stations. Clear Channel's attempt to sell off over 100 stations to GoodRadio.TV, LLC was rejected by the equity firm backing the deal. The deal has since shifted to Frequency License LLC, but has yet to resolve itself as the two parties are engaged in lawsuits. On top of that, the sale of Clear Channel's television portfolio to Newport Television had also turned uncertain, as parent company Providence Equity Partners considered other options, although this transaction was ultimately completed.
On December 4, 2007, Clear Channel announced that they had extended the termination date of the merger from December 12, 2007, to June 12, 2008. The buyout finally closed in July 2008. The company, which has laid off thousands of employees in recent years, announced that it would move to more centralized programming and lay off 1,500 employees, or approximately 7% of its workforce, on January 20, 2009. The reasoning was bleak economic conditions and debt from its transition to a private company. Later on January 20, the company said that the total count of employees to be terminated would be 1,850, or 9%.
Between January and May 2009 Clear Channel eliminated 2,440 positions. On May 20, 2009, Clear Channel announced an initiative to help its radio station listeners who are seeking employment to market their skills and unique features on the air to attract the attention of employers with available positions.
Clear Channel has purchased interest in, or outright acquired, companies in a number of media or advertising related industries. This is not an exhaustive list.
With 850 stations, Clear Channel is the largest radio station group owner in the United States, both by number of stations and by revenue. The 850 stations reach more than 110 million listeners every week, and 237 million every month. According to BIA Financial Network, Clear Channel Media & Entertainment recorded more than $3.5 billion in revenues in as of 2005[update], $1 billion more than the number-two group owner, CBS Radio. In 2012, Clear Channel announced that it will be the first radio group to pay performance royalties to record labels and musicians for the broadcast of their music across the Clear Channel radio network airwaves. Clear Channel has entered into revenue-sharing agreements with Big Machine Label Group, Glassnote Entertainment Group, eOne, Dualtone, DashGo, rpm Entertainment, Robbins Entertainment, Naxos, Wind-up Records, Fearless Records, Zojak World Wide, and band Fleetwood Mac. This ground breaking deal has established a long awaited bridge between record labels and radio groups. This deal between Clear Channel, the record labels, and the artists allows Clear Channel to pay digital performance royalties from a percentage of advertising revenues from streaming and web-casting of music instead of a pay per play model. In exchange, the record labels and artists receive airplay revenue from both digital and broadcast radio platforms. Before the deal only songwriters and producers received performance royalties from radio airplay.
Clear Channel has purchased stations from or acquired the following radio companies:
Clear Channel Outdoor is an advertising company owned by Clear Channel Communications.
The first television station Clear Channel purchased was WPMI in Mobile, Alabama in 1988. It owned more than 40 additional stations, a few of which are independent (non-network affiliates). In 2007, the company entered into an agreement to sell all its television stations to Providence Equity Partners for $1.2 billion, a deal that eventually closed in March 2008. All former Clear Channel television stations are now owned by Newport Television, except for six stations then flipped to other buyers by Newport. In 2012, Newport announced its intentions to sell off as many of the former Clear Channel stations as is legally allowed to Nexstar Broadcasting Group, Cox Media Group and Sinclair Broadcast Group.
On December 21, 2005, Clear Channel completed the spin-off of Live Nation, formerly known as Clear Channel Entertainment. Live Nation is an independent company (NYSE: LYV) and is no longer owned by Clear Channel. Live Nation UK was also included in the spin off.
Note that post-spinoff, there is overlap the board between Clear Channel and Live Nation, specifically: L. Lowry Mays, Mark P. Mays (Former Vice Chairman of Live Nation), and Randall T. Mays (Former Chairman of Live Nation).
In 2003, Clear Channel created the Vertical Real Estate division and hired Scott Quitadamo to promote its tower portfolio. Clear Channel owns and operates approximately 1,500 broadcast transmission towers across the U.S., many of which are available for co-location by third parties such as cellular and PCS companies, wireless internet, fixed wireless, and other broadcasters.
|This section's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. (March 2012)|
Current members of the board of directors of Clear Channel Communications are: Alan Feld, Perry Lewis, Lowry Mays, B.J.(Red) McCombs, Phyllis Riggins, Theodore Strauss, J.C. Watts, and John H. Williams.
Tom Hicks and Vernon Jordan were formerly members of Clear Channel's board of directors. Jordan was a close friend and advisor to President Bill Clinton and was accused of lying to investigators during the investigations into perjury and obstruction of justice charges against Clinton. Hicks, Clear Channel's former vice-chairman, is a past donor to George W. Bush's political campaigns and a close associate of the Bush family. Hicks is the founder of Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, the private-equity firm that funded many of Clear Channel's antecedent companies, including most significantly CapStar, Chancellor Media and AM-FM, Inc..
Clear Channel operates the country's largest syndication service, Premiere Networks. In addition, Clear Channel syndicates a number of its homegrown talk and music shows without the aid of Premiere. While Premiere actively sells its shows to stations, the non-Premiere syndicated shows are often used as a cost-cutting measure and do not have a large sales staff. Those shows also do not carry network-wide advertising (unless distributed by a third party), and allow the affiliates to keep all local spots, which increases their appeal. These networks carry many program hosts of various political ideologies and distribute a variety of programs to both Clear Channel-owned and non-Clear Channel-owned stations.
In addition to its own syndication network, Clear Channel offers studio space and other services to the WestStar TalkRadio Network, which is based at Clear Channel's studios in Phoenix, Arizona. As a result, many WestStar programs are heard on Clear Channel stations.
Not all programming heard on Clear Channel's radio stations are produced in house; however, most of Clear Channel's stations share many similarities to each other in branding and programming.
The Format Lab is a think tank run by Clear Channel that produces over eighty channels of programming, varying from mainstream formats to the highly experimental. These channels are heard on most of Clear Channel's HD Radio subchannels on its stations across the country in a commercial-free format.
iheartradio is an interactive media social networking platform outlet to aggregate local radio brands, personalities and on-demand content including photos, videos and more.
Clear Channel Alternative Stations usually are branded as "Radio" such as Radio 104.5 in Philadelphia or Radio 105.7/96.7 in Atlanta. Others include: 98.7 in LA, The Edge, The Buzz, The Project, or X. Their flagship Premium Choice Alternative Station is The Alternative Project broadcasting on WAXQ-FM 104.3 HD-2 in New York City.
Stations that carry programming catering to black Americans are a big part of many Clear Channel clusters, particularly Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit. In many clusters Clear Channel has two or more such stations. About half the Urban stations focus on Rap and Hip Hop along with younger rhythm and blues sounds. The other half blend some younger rhythm and blues along with some Soul from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s along with some current product. Some of the Hip Hop based Urban stations report as Rhythmic Top 40 stations rather than Urban stations because these stations also have some appeal to white and Hispanic listeners. In a cluster with multiple urban stations owned by Clear Channel, one is focused on Rap while the other is focused on Soul. Examples include Philadelphia, with WUSL's focus on hip hop while WDAS-FM focuses on Soul (in addition, the company also owns a rhythmic AC station in that area, which is WISX 106.1), and Chicago, where WGCI-FM focuses on rap while WVAZ is focused on Soul. Clear Channel urban, urban AC or rhythmic stations are branded as "Beat" (KTBT Tulsa, WBTP Tampa and WIBT Charlotte) or "Power" (WWPR New York City, WUSL Philadelphia and WPHR Syracuse). But for San Francisco, Clear Channel owns more urban-related stations such as rhythmic top 40 KYLD, urban oldies KISQ and urban contemporary KMEL in that area, and the same happened in Detroit, where the company also owns urban AC WMXD, urban contemporary WJLB and rhythmic AC WDTW-FM.
For rhythmic AC stations, they used to have the "Party" branding (particularly during the time when most used Wake Up With Whoopi as their morning show), but the two "Party" stations in Denver (KPTT) and Las Vegas (KPLV) have since exited the rhythmic AC format. KPTT and KPLV moved to top 40, but continue to use the "Party" branding. All Clear Channel rhythmic AC stations are now differently branded per station.
News talk stations owned by Clear Channel usually have a standard slate of hosts. The morning show is usually local, with other timeslots filled by local and syndicated hosts. Programs that appear on many Clear Channel talk stations include the Glenn Beck Program—getting his talk show start at Clear Channel owned WFLA (AM) in Tampa, The Rush Limbaugh Show, The Sean Hannity Show, America Now with Andy Dean and Coast to Coast AM, all of which are affiliated with Premiere Radio Networks in some fashion. The Mark Levin Show and The Dave Ramsey Show are non-Premiere shows who air on many (if not most) Clear Channel stations, as did The Savage Nation prior to its ending in September 2012. Limbaugh is almost universally carried on Clear Channel stations in markets where the company has a news talk station, with the exception of New York City: WOR has only recently come under ownership of Clear Channel and has not yet acquired Limbaugh from its current home, Cumulus Media-owned WABC. In markets where Clear Channel-owned news talk stations have not been profitable (such as Boston and Atlanta), Clear Channel has chosen to sell shows such as Limbaugh and Coast to Coast AM to their rivals and change the stations to other formats.
While most of Clear Channel's news/talk stations carry some combination of Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity and Noory (of Coast to Coast AM), this is not always the case. Many stations (particularly in the larger markets) like KFI, KFYI, KOA, WZZR and WLW broadcast a lineup with significant local programming.
Clear Channel does not operate any all-news radio stations. For a brief time in the late 2000s, KFXR in Dallas ran a direct feed of HLN under the on-air name CNN 1190, but KFXR dropped that format in 2009. Almost all of Clear Channel's primary talk stations are affiliated with Fox News Radio for national news, part of a multi-year deal between Clear Channel and Fox. However in 2012 Clear Channel has provided an all-news feed called 24/7 News. This radio network is exclusive to Iheartradio
Liberal talk radio is heard on a few of Clear Channel's stations, primarily secondary to its main news talk stations, and usually feature at least one local host with Dial Global programming; Air America Radio also aired on these stations. Clear Channel has shown a tendency to drop liberal talk affiliations whenever possible and replace it with satellite Fox Sports talk (see, for instance, WCKY, WARF, KLSD, WXKS [which currently runs the Clear Channel conservative talk format instead], and WINZ); this has, in a few rare circumstances, caused protests, such as those involved when Clear Channel wanted to make the same move with WXXM in Madison, Wisconsin (WXXM was eventually allowed to keep its liberal format).
Clear Channel has been active in the national trend of simulcasting its AM news/talk stations on full-power FM stations, hoping to preserve their long-term viability while AM radio declines. Examples include San Diego, California, on KUSS 95.7 (which became KOGO-FM after simulcasting KOGO-AM, replacing country music), Sacramento, California on KGBY 92.5 (which became KFBK-FM after simulcasting KFBK-AM, replacing hot adult contemporary), in Tucson, Arizona, on KTZR-FM (which became KNST-FM after simulcasting KNST-AM, replacing Spanish top 40), in Schenectady, New York (WGY-FM/103.1, simulcasting WGY/810, replacing rock WHRL) and Syracuse, New York (WSYR-FM/106.9 simulcasting WSYR/570, displacing urban AC "Power" to WHEN/620). After failing to see any significant ratings gains from these moves, Clear Channel showed signs of abandoning this strategy when it changed KNST-FM to country music in February 2013 as KYWD.
Most sports talk stations owned by Clear Channel are affiliated with Fox Sports Radio and carry The Jim Rome Show; Fox Sports Radio has recently picked up The Dan Patrick Show. They are usually branded either Fox Sports or The Sports Animal.
Most of Clear Channel's adult standards stations are turnkey operations, running a direct feed of a satellite format such as Dial Global's America's Best Music or Music of Your Life. Most of these stations have no local jocks or Web sites. The network has few remaining stations in that category and has sold off many of them.
Clear Channel's adult contemporary stations are often branded as "Lite FM" (i.e. WLIT in Chicago, WLTW in New York, or WLKO in Charlotte) or "Sunny", although some stations use "Magic," "Star" or something else similar as their identifiers. Evenings are usually filled with Delilah, unless that show is already aired by another station, in which case the John Tesh Radio Show is often substituted. Automated programming is the next option for the 7PM- 12 AM timeslot. Your Weekend with Jim Brickman and the in-house American Top 40 the 1970s (or 1980s) with Casey Kasem are popular weekend syndicated programs on Clear Channel stations. Most AC stations air Christmas music from the last week of November to Christmas Day. Some AC Clear Channel stations are almost famous for playing Christmas music as early as November 1 such as KAAZ-FM in Salt Lake City or WLKO playing its first Christmas song of the season 2–3 weeks before Thanksgiving. 2/3 of CC stations that play Adult Contemporary air Christmas formats.
Hot adult contemporary stations are usually branded as "Mix," even though a Cleveland, Ohio radio station (WMVX; now adult hits WHLK "The Lake") utilized the "Mix" brand but carried an AC format instead. Some Hot AC stations lean modern rock while others lean toward adult rock. Other Hot AC stations have other brandings such as "Wild 105.7 and 96.7" on WRDA in Atlanta.
Clear Channel's CHR stations share a number of common brands, including "KISS-FM" (e.g., KIIS Los Angeles, KHKS Dallas/Ft. Worth, WAKS Cleveland, WFKS Melbourne), "Z" (e.g., WHTZ New York, KKRZ Portland, WZFT Baltimore), "Wild" (e.g., WLDI West Palm Beach, KXJM Portland, KYLD San Francisco), Channel (e.g., WKQI Detroit, WHQC Charlotte), or "Hot" (e.g., WIHT in Washington, DC). Other brands, less commonly used, include "Hit Music Now" (WMKS Greensboro, NC), "Radio Now" (WRNW Milwaukee, WNWW Jacksonville, KWNW Crawford-Memphis, AR/TN, WNRW Louisville), "Q" (WIOQ-Philadelphia-102.1 FM-Q102), "B" (B 104 Allentown-Reading PA 104.1 FM), "FM" (FM 97 96.9 FM Lancaster-Reading), "Variety" (Variety 97.7/99.7 Williamsport, Lock Haven, PA), "Max" (Max 106.3 Sussex) and "K.C." (KC 101, 101.3 FM, Hamden-New Haven, CT/Long Island, NY). Still other branding can be heard, however, when a preferred format name is already in use by another station in the market.
Many Clear Channel CHR stations utilize syndicated morning shows, such as D.C.'s The Kane Show (especially in the middle Atlantic and Uppermidwest states); Elvis Duran Morning Show based out of WHTZ, New Jersey/New York's Z100; JohnJay & Rich based out of KZZP Phoenix, AZ (especially in the Rocky Mountain states), and Kidd Kraddick In The Morning based out of KHKS in Dallas/Fort Worth (primarily in the South Central United States). Some East Coast CHR stations carry On Air with Ryan Seacrest middays.
On weekends, syndicated programming is commonly carried, primarily: FOX All-Access, Open House Party, American Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest, Backtrax USA: the 90s with Kidd Kelly, Dawson McAllister Live, and (aired on some stations typically in small markets) Rick Dees' Weekly Top 40.
Country music stations owned by Clear Channel usually carry Blair Garner in overnights (and occasionally evenings), and many (although not all) carry Big D and Bubba in morning drive. The Bull or K-bull is the most used branding for country music outlets.
Clear Channel's Oldies station consists largely of FM stations with some AM stations. Clear Channel uses brands such as "Big" and "Kool" on many of its stations. Nearly all of the FM stations play oldies spanning from 1964 to 1975, with a 500 song active playlist split nearly half 1960s and half 1970s. The playlist also includes approximately a dozen pre 1964 tracks and around 50 songs from the late 1970s and early 1980s. These stations generally have a few local live announcers; much of the time these stations are voicetracked either locally or from another market. Most run syndicated programming on weekends, such as Dick Bartley or Mike Harvey on Saturday nights, Steve Goddard's programs (Goddard's Gold and/or The 70s), and recently, Casey Kasem's American Top 40: The 70s. A handful of Clear Channel's outlets have picked up syndicated weeknight fare, such as Mike Harvey, Marty Thompson or Tom Kent.
The AM oldies stations' playlists skew somewhat older and span from 1955 to about 1975. About 60 percent of the time they play 1964 to 1969 oldies, 20 percent pre 1964 oldies, and 20 percent music from the 1970s. Some of these also run Dick Bartley or Mike Harvey on Saturday nights. Some of the AM stations also run adult standards several hours on the weekend as well as limited specialized programming focusing on the pre 1964 era. Most of the AM stations are in smaller markets.
These stations tend to play a blend of new rock and harder classic rock. Some carry Nights with Alice Cooper in the evenings while some others air Sixx Sense with Nikki Sixx. These stations tend to be live during the day and voicetracked at night. Some stations run Rockline with Bob Coburn and/or Little Steven's Underground Garage as well.
While Clear Channel classic rock stations operate under a wide variety of monikers, many are branded as "The Fox" or "The Brew". Often, these stations will carry Bob and Tom in morning drive. In the Southern United States, John Boy and Billy is carried instead in most cases. (Both of the aforementioned shows are syndicated by Premiere.) Other shows include the Walton and Johnson Show out of Houston and the Morning Glory out of Cleveland. Starting with WQBW Milwaukee (which has since switched to another format) and WBWR Columbus, several Clear Channel stations have adopted an 1980s-centered classic rock approach called "The Brew."
In a few markets Clear Channel has an FM station carrying Hispanic programming full-time. In some markets the format is a Contemporary Tropical format while in others the format carried is more of a Mexican format. In a few markets a Clear Channel FM station carries a rap based Spanish format known as Hurban, which blends Spanish dance music with rhythm and blues hits as well as some Hip Hop. The division is run by Spanish radio executive Alfredo Alonso, who joined Clear Channel in September 2004 as Senior Vice President Hispanic Radio.
In a few markets, Clear Channel has a religious station on the AM band. Some of these sell blocks of time to outside organizations and have no local shows at all except where local churches buy time. These are formatted similarly to Salem Media stations.
The other type of religious format Clear Channel uses in a few markets is a Gospel music based format. On these stations Gospel Music appealing to black Americans airs most of the time along with some block programming sold to religious groups. These stations are often programmed as urban stations that happen to be religious.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the company became an object of persistent criticism. FCC regulations were relaxed following the Telecommunications Act of 1996, allowing companies to own far more radio stations than before. After spending about $30 billion, Clear Channel owned over 1,200 stations nationwide, including as many as eight stations in certain markets. Although "media reform" social movement organizations like Future of Music Coalition mobilized against Clear Channel, so far the company has been able to hold on to all of its stations after divesting a few following the acquisition of AMFM, although over 500 stations have since been sold or are in the process of being sold since the company announced plans to become privately held.
Following the September 11 attacks on New York and The Pentagon, radio stations circulated a list of songs that were deemed inappropriate for broadcast during the time of national mourning following the attacks. A small list was initially generated by the Clear Channel office on Thursday, September 13, 2001, though individual program directors added many of their own songs. A list containing about 150 songs was soon published on the Internet. Some critics suggested that Clear Channel's political preferences played a part in the list. A number of songs were apparently placed on the list because they had specific words such as "plane", "fly", "burn," and "falling" in their titles. Clear Channel denies that this was a list of banned songs, claiming it was a list of titles that should be played only after great thought. Also WOFX, Cincinnati, owned by Clear Channel at the time continued to play songs that were on the alleged list, even though radio headquarters was in Cincinnati at the time. Songs on the list included Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'", Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" and the entire Rage Against the Machine discography.
In 2004, Clear Channel acquired a key patent in the process of producing Instant Live recordings, in which a live performance is recorded directly from the sound engineer's console during the show, and then rapidly burned on CD so that audience members can buy copies of the show as they are leaving the venue. This had been intended to provide additional revenue to the artist, venue, and promoter, as well as stifle the demand for unauthorized bootleg concert recordings made by audience members. However, some media critics, as well as smaller business rivals, believed that Clear Channel was using the patent (on the process of adding cues to the beginning and ending of tracks during recording, so that the concert is not burned as a single enormous track) to drive competitors out of business or force them to pay licensing fees, even if they do not use precisely the same process. The patent was transferred to Live Nation when Clear Channel Entertainment was spun off, but the patent was revoked on March 13, 2007, after it was found that this patent infringed on a prior patent granted for Telex.
||This section's tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia. (April 2008)|
During the nationwide crackdown on indecent material following the 2004 Super Bowl, Clear Channel launched a "self-policing" effort, and declared that there would be no "indecent" material allowed on the air. This led to the company's dismissal of several of their own employees, including popular and high-profile hosts in a number of cities. Free-speech advocates cried foul. During this same period, Howard Stern was dropped from six Clear Channel owned stations in Florida, California, Pennsylvania, New York and Kentucky. By mid-year, rival Viacom (through radio division Infinity Broadcasting) brought Stern's show back to those six markets. In June 2004, Viacom/Infinity Broadcasting Inc./One Twelve Inc. filed a $10 million lawsuit against Clear Channel for breaking of contracts and non-payment of licensing fees due to the dropping of Stern's show. (Viacom was Howard Stern's employer at the time, though he has since moved to Sirius Satellite Radio). The following July, Clear Channel filed a countersuit of $3 million.
In the early 2000s, Clear Channel settled a lawsuit with a Denver, Colorado concert promoter, Nobody In Particular Presents (NIPP). In the lawsuit, NIPP alleged that Clear Channel halted airplay on its local stations for (NIPP) clients, and that Clear Channel would not allow NIPP to publicize its concerts on the air. The lawsuit was settled in 2004 when Clear Channel agreed to pay NIPP a confidential sum. However a systematic analysis of concert ticket prices found no evidence that Clear Channel was cross-leveraging its radio interests with its (now divested) concert promotion interests.
Clear Channel uses the Prophet Nex-Gen automation system throughout their properties. Like most contemporary automation systems, Nex-Gen allows a DJ from anywhere in the country to sound as if he or she is broadcasting from anywhere else in the country, on any other station. A technological outgrowth of earlier, tape-based automation systems dating back to the 1960s, this method—known as voice-tracking—allows for smaller market stations to be partially or completely staffed by "cyber-jocks" who may never have visited the town from which they are broadcasting. This practice may also result in local on-air positions being reduced or eliminated. It has been stated the Clear Channel maintains a majority of its staff in hourly-paid, part-time positions. Not all radio stations use Prophet; there are other systems available for broadcasters, especially when satellite-based programming is used.
Clear Channel was criticized for a situation that occurred in Minot, North Dakota, on the morning of January 18, 2002. At around 2:30 a.m., a Canadian Pacific Railway train derailed and leaked 240,000 US gallons (910,000 L) of toxic anhydrous ammonia, releasing a cloud of caustic, poisonous gas over the city. At the time, Clear Channel owned six commercial radio stations out of nine in the Minot area. City officials attempted to contact the local Clear Channel office by telephone to spread warnings of the danger using its radio stations, but it was several critical hours before the station manager was finally reached at his home. In the meantime, 9-1-1 operators were advising panicked callers to tune to KCJB-AM for emergency instructions, but the station was not broadcasting any such information.
The ammonia spill was the largest of its kind in the United States, with one person killed, and over 1,000 seeking medical attention. Clear Channel claimed no responsibility for its failure to warn residents, maintaining that the city should have used the Emergency Alert System to trigger automatic equipment in place at all U.S. radio stations. The EAS equipment was later found to be functional at the time, but had not been activated by city, state or regional authorities. Unfortunately, other critical systems throughout Minot were either inoperable or had failed, including the public siren system, electricity in parts of the town, and the 9-1-1 telephone system, which became overloaded.
The incident has been cited as an example of the physical dangers of media consolidation and the prevalent cost-cutting measure of eliminating overnight staff at stations.
In June 2010 Clear Channel Outdoor rejected without comment two digital billboard images submitted by St. Pete Pride, an LGBT organization that sponsors gay pride events in the St. Petersburg, Florida area, leading the group to cancel its contract with Clear Channel. St. Pete Pride has stated that throughout its eight year history, Clear Channel has edited the organization's advertising material, and questioned whether the rejection of these images were because they displayed same-sex couples in affectionate poses. A Clear Channel spokesperson declined to comment on the specific reasons why the images were rejected but denied that the affection being shown was an issue, saying that such images had been included in previous St. Pete Pride campaigns.
Clear Channel has been criticized for censoring opinions critical of George W. Bush and other Republicans. After Natalie Maines, the singer of the Dixie Chicks, told a London audience "we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas", the band's radio airplay dropped precipitously. Afterwards, some Clear Channel stations removed The Dixie Chicks from their playlists without any noted repercussions from the company. Gail Austin, Clear Channel's director of programming said, "Out of respect for our troops, our city and our listeners, [we] have taken the Dixie Chicks off our playlists." Clear Channel was accused of orchestrating the radio blacklist by such critics as Paul Krugman, however others claim some Clear Channel stations continued to play the band longer than some other companies. This treatment of the Dixie Chicks is contrasted with Clear Channel's handling of Ted Nugent criticizing President Obama, a Democrat, wherein Nugent was offered air time to explain his side of the issue and blame the "liberal media" for trying to silence him.
While a smaller percentage of Clear Channel's AM talk/music stations have been in the progressive talk format (featuring the now-cancelled Air America Radio network) and they have also been a media sponsor of Frameline, the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival.
Clear Channel, through its subsidiary, Premiere Radio Networks, auditions and hires actors to call in to talk radio shows and pose as listeners in order to provide shows, carried by Clear Channel and other broadcasters, with planned content in the form of stories and opinions. The custom caller service provided by Premiere Radio assures its clients they won't hear the same actor's voice for at least two months in order to appear authentic to listeners who might otherwise catch on.
On August 29, 2012, Project 96.1, Atlanta's only remaining FM rock station, changed formats to Power 96.1 (Pop, Top 40). Similarly, on September 28, 2012, 640 WGST (conservative news/talk) changed formats to Spanish sports, sparking outrage from Atlanta listeners and petitions to return 640 to its original news format.