Clear Channel (iHeart) Killed The Radio Star

by Kevin Burton

   In the old days we turned on our radios for music, for news, for sports and weather forecasts, and we got all those things.

   But what we really loved, and what kept us coming back for more, was the way those things were delivered, something that was woven throughout the broadcast days and nights,  something missing from radio these days.


   In Spanish they say “forma de ser,” or way of being.  Most stations had a way of being that was fun.  I mean sure, it went too far sometimes. If a morning DJ’s particular brand of zaniness didn’t hit you just right, it could be off-putting.  But stations used to hire people with style and personality and that personality was true to its region.

   Boston was different from Boise, was different from Osh Kosh, was different from Portland, was different from Tuscaloosa. 

   Wednesday I wrote about “Video Killed the Radio Star” the 1979 Buggles hit that sounded like a plausible narrative for the future of music, especially two years later when MTV was launched in the United States.   If you could get your favorite top 40 hits, with pictures, moving pictures, wouldn’t that be much better? 

   As it played out, video and radio co-existed without too much hostility. The demise of the radio that many of us loved came not from technology, but from Clinton-era legislation. 

   “The 1996 Telecommunications Act removed all national and local restrictions on national ownership that specified the number of stations one company could own in a set market,” reads a Wikipedia page for radio homogenization.

   “Before 1996, a company was prohibited from owning more than 40 stations, and from owning more than two AM and two FM stations in one market. The bill covered a wide range of formats and was the first time the Internet was included in broadcasting and spectrum allotment.”

    “Two companies in particular, Clear Channel and the Infinity Broadcasting unit of Viacom, own roughly half the USA’s airwaves.,” according to Wikipedia. “Clear Channel grew from 40 stations to 1,240 stations in seven years (30 times more than congressional regulation previously allowed).    Their aggressive acquisitions have gained them enemies as well as supporters, but their ownership of 247 of the nation’s 250 largest radio markets and their domination of the Top 40 format makes them undeniably a significant player in the music industry.”

   “Artists that experienced success in the industry prior to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, such as David Crosby of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Don Henley of The Eagles, have brought to light what they believe are contributing to the nationwide homogenization of music,” reads the Wikipedia page

   “Crosby tells PBS in an interview, ‘When it all started, record companies – and there were many of them, and this was a good thing – were run by people who loved records, people like Ahmet Ertegun, who ran Atlantic Records, who were record collectors. They got in it because they loved music…. Now record companies are run by lawyers and accountants.’ This view highlights a common theme that creativity and passion have been subverted by the financial incentives of corporatized media companies.”

   “Chief executives of large record labels often have no musical or cultural background. A head of Universal Vivendi, Jean René Fourtou, was previously in pharmaceuticals. Gunter Thielen, the former head of Bertelsmann, previously managed the company’s printing and industrial operations.”

   “Music journalist Ernesto Aguilar expressed the sentiment that “media consolidation means not only does corporate radio control who gets played, but also which artists get recognition, who is perceived as a voice in a music’s history and who is erased from that history.”

   “IHeartMedia was once known as Clear Channel, and under that name gobbled up huge vectors of the American radio spectrum and spit out sterile programming which ruined radio as a viable or even interesting medium for an entire generation,” wrote Terry Matthew on, a House Music magazine based in Chicago.

   Most of the G-rated comments on Clear Channel that I found were along those lines. Many believe radio is permanently broken. Some of us dearly miss the radio we used to know. But in the era of streaming, I wonder if old-time radio could ever make a comeback

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1 Comment

  1. Oh hell, I really miss how radio used to be. When local radio was truly local and not just running some generic program, they purchased from a net work when DJs actually played records and reacted whi

    Liked by 1 person

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