By Anna Nguyen, Silha Research Assistant
In March and April 2003, Clear Channel Worldwide Inc.'s radio stations
in several U.S. cities sponsored major "Rally For America" events in support
of the military and war in Iraq. The stations paid for advertising and
hiring musicians for the rallies, the Guardian of London reported
on March 26.
Clear Channel, based in San Antonio, Texas, is the nation's largest owner
of radio stations. It operates about 1,225 radio and 39 television stations
in the United States and has equity interests in more than 240 radio stations
internationally. Clear Channel also operates approximately 776,000 outdoor
advertising displays, including billboards, street furniture and transit
panels. Clear Channel Entertainment, a division of Clear Channel Worldwide,
is a promoter, producer and marketer of live entertainment events. Clear
Channel also owns athlete management and marketing companies, such as
SFX Sports Group.
The New York Times reported on March 31 that Clear Channel's competitors
have criticized pro-military rallies organized up by Glenn Beck, whose
talk show is syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks, a Clear Channel subsidiary.
Beck, based in Philadelphia, told the Washington Post that he organized
the rallies in part to counter antiwar comments by celebrities. An April
6 article in the Washington Times stated that those who disagree
with "Rally for America" events label them "pro-war rallies."
Beck said that he got the idea for the rallies from KLIF-AM Dallas talk
show host Darrell Ankarlo, whose station is owned by Clear Channel, according
to the Washington Times.
Ankarlo said he decided to organize a rally to support the troops after
his 21-year-old son asked why he was hearing so many reports of anti-American
sentiment but so little news supporting the troops. Ankarlo told the Washington
Times that after he announced the idea on the air, he received more
than 300 e-mails in 40 minutes. The first gathering drew about 3,500 people
in a Dallas suburb in March 2003.
Amir Forester, a spokeswoman for Premiere Radio Network, a part of Clear
Channel, told the Guardian that the rallies, which the company
calls "patriotic" and not "pro-war," were Beck's idea. "He's paid to express
his opinion, just like a newspaper columnist," said Forester.
Former Federal Communications Commissioner Glen Robinson told the Chicago
Tribune, "I can't say that this violates any of the broadcaster's
obligations, but it sounds like borderline manufacturing of the news."
The sponsorship has attracted attention because most other major media
companies have confined their war-related activities to reporting and
the occasional editorial comment, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Paul Krugman, columnist for the New York Times, wrote on March
25, "most pro-war demonstrations around the country have been organized
by stations owned by Clear Channel. Why would a media company insert itself
into politics this way?"
Krugman answered his own question by citing the company's top management's
history with George W. Bush when he was the governor of Texas. Tom Hicks,
the current vice chairman of Clear Channel, and Lowry Mays, the current
chairman of Clear Channel, both were associated with the University of
Texas Investment Management Company also known as Utimco. Under Hicks,
Utimco placed much of the university's endowment under the management
of companies with strong Republican Party or Bush family ties. In 1998,
Hicks purchased the Texas Rangers in a deal that made Governor Bush a
According to the New York Times, some of Clear Channel's critics
also point out that several of the company's country music stations stopped
playing music by the Dixie Chicks after its lead singer, Natalie Maines,
told fans in early March during a concert in London, "We're ashamed the
president of the United States is from Texas." However, the New York
Times also reported that not all Clear Channel country radio stations
have banned the Dixie Chicks.
Clear Channel's critics in media, political and legal circles have implied
or even said outright that Clear Channel's actions are calculated to build
support within the Bush administration at a time when the Federal Communications
Commission was considering regulations regarding how many radio stations
a single company may own, according to the New York Times.
John Hogan, the president and chief executive of Clear Channel's radio
division, told the New York Times that the idea of a corporate
political push as "laughable," saying, "I won't kid you and tell you that
Clear Channel is above criticism, but the brush that is painting us as
evil and mean-spirited, and with some sort of onerous political agenda
is one that I have a hard time getting my arms around."
Clear Channel's stations in Atlanta, Cleveland, San Antonio, San Diego,
Richmond, Va., and other cities have also sponsored rallies that, according
to official estimates, were attended by up to 20,000 people each.