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Saturday, July 12, 2003

This is really starting to bind my cheese, fellers, especially since Republicans like John McCain are chiming in on the issue. Here's what Billboard/Reuters reported about the Dixie Chicks and media consolidation.

Natalie Maines' controversial comments about President Bush are echoing ever louder in Congress and starting to rattle windows in the radio industry.

Cumulus Broadcasting -- which banned Maines' group, the Dixie Chicks, from all 50 of its country stations after her remarks at a London concert in March -- was the latest to feel the sting of a mounting backlash against media consolidation. [And why might that backlash be mounting? Because liberals see their stranglehold on media loosening, and they can’t stand it. This has nothing—NOTHING—to do with media consolidation. The rules that let Clear Channel and the like own so many stations were enacted under, say it with me, Bill Clinton’s administration. And you heard nary a peep out of the Dixie Chicks or any other liberal group. No, it was only when liberals’ ox began being gored that the “backlash” started.]

In congressional hearings held July 8, Dixie Chicks manager Simon Renshaw led the charge against Cumulus and the radio business. He revealed his office had had death threats during the ban and he had uncovered evidence that the effort was "orchestrated" in part by "right-wing political" groups. [Been reading from the Hillary Clinton playbook, have you, Mr. Renshaw? So the vast right-wing conspiracy somehow managed to penetrate Natalie Maines’ head, find her tiny little mind, and manipulate it into saying those things? And hey, Billboard, nice reporting. What effort do you mean when you say it was “orchestrated”? The death threats, the boycotting, or both?]

"What happened to my clients is perhaps the most compelling evidence that radio ownership consolidation has a direct negative impact on diversity of programming and political discourse over the public airwaves," he charged. [And the fact that I don’t have a stable of Ferraris is perhaps the most compelling evidence that economic laws desperately need revamping. Hey, my claim has as much merit as his does.]

Executives in the corporate offices of Cumulus decided to take the group off the air following a well-publicized remark Maines made that the band was "ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas."

"It's an incredible, incredible act," said John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, at the volatile oversight hearing. [You are correct, John. It is an incredible, incredible act. An act of free speech of the highest order. The founding fathers set up this country so that a company such as Cumulus can pick and choose what they do or don’t want to play. God bless America, and thank God for free speech. While it lasts.]

Lewis W. Dickey Jr., chairman/CEO of Atlanta-based Cumulus -- which owns about 275 stations -- took all of the heat regarding the Chicks episode. The company lifted the ban in May, but not before disciplining DJs at two stations for defying the edict.

McCain repeatedly grilled Dickey: "Did you not order those stations to take the Dixie Chicks off the air?"

Dickey finally said yes.

McCain then asked: "Would you do that to me?"

Dickey replied, "No."

"Then why do it to a group of entertainers?" McCain asked.

Dickey replied that the ban was a "business decision. Our stations turned to us for guidance. There was a groundswell, a hue and cry from listeners." [Once again, an incredible, incredible act of vox populi. The listeners, the people who pay the bills for Cumulus and allow them to broadcast, were vexed with the Chicks’ comments, and Cumulus responded. Free speech and supply and demand in one fell swoop.]

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., countered: "I keep hearing you say 'a hue and cry.' Well, that happens all the time in this country. There's a hue and cry every time I speak out about women's choice. That's what happens when you have a diversity of views, discourse. A hue and cry is a beautiful sound. It's the sound of freedom." [An honorary Nobel Logic Prize to whomever can figure out how we went from radio consolidation to abortion. Nice going, Barbara. And by the way, if a hue and cry is a beautiful sound, why are you trying so mightily to squelch it?]

Dickey acknowledged that his local station managers "fell in line" with the corporate decision.

"I don't think you know what you've done," Boxer told Dickey. "You've motivated us to look closely at consolidation. When you said earlier that your local staff 'fell in line,' that was a dead giveaway." [Holy crap! You mean that a boss told his staff what to do, and they did it? Sweet fancy Moses, the world is coming to an end! We’re all gonna die!!!!!! That stamping sound you hear is the four horsemen of the apocalypse warming up!!!!!!]

McCain said he was not concerned about free-speech violations at local stations that had initiated their own boycotts. "But this came from corporate headquarters. That's a strong argument that First Amendment erosion is in progress." [Horse crap, John. And not high-grade, Clydesdale crap, either. This is carnival pony-ride horse crap. Who, who, WHO was prevented from speaking freely by Cumulus’ policy? Absolutely no one. If a program director at a Cumulus station wanted to speak out and support the Chicks, he could have. And Cumulus could have fired him, because that’s freedom of speech, too. And forgive me if I’m wrong, but isn’t McCain supposed to be a Republican? Has he contracted Bob Rileyitis?]

Sen. John E. Sununu, R-N.H., said, "Radio programrs [sic from Billboard] should not be in the business of political censorship. They should be in the business of promoting political discourse." [No, they should be in the business of making money for their investors. And I see Sununu has been contaminated by McCain.]


Renshaw testified that during the episode, he received an e-mail from a Clear Channel PD whom he had never met that he found disturbing.

He said that Jay Michaels, the PD at Clear Channel country station WTXT Tuscaloosa, Ala., sent him an e-mail relating to Bruce Springsteen's statement of support for the Chicks on his Web site.

According to Renshaw, Michaels wrote: "Maybe Bruce didn't read what said. Let him say it and watch what happens." [Honestly, this is so poorly written that I can’t understand a bit of it.]

A Clear Channel spokesman later told Billboard that Michael's e-mail was "misinterpreted, only speculation and certainly did not mean that our stations would be involved in any action toward Springsteen."

Renshaw said that despite criticism from other quarters that Clear Channel bullies artists, he has good relations with company and station staff and he felt the company acted responsibly during the imbroglio. [Of course Clear Channel bullies artists. It’s business, baby, and there’s no room for sissies. I don’t like Clear Channel anymore than the next guy. But, like Wal-Mart, they’re getting ahead by being aggressive and good. That strategy might be unethical when compared to the Judeo-Christian ethic (“Do unto others” doesn’t exactly mean “Run others out of business mercilessly”), but business doesn’t always toe the spiritual line. So if Clear Channel wants to broadcast corporate drivel in which one group is completely indistinguishable from another, they can do so.]

However, he said that because of Clear Channel's dominance in the marketplace, there is always a tendency for artists and managers to go along with the company's suggestions for interviews and appearances -- "a you-scratch-my-back, I'll-scratch-yours" mentality. [Hey, why don’t the senators call up a Wal-Mart supplier and ask them if they’ve ever gotten any “suggestions” from Bentonville? Wal-Mart doesn’t ask for concessions from suppliers, they demand them. And suppliers either comply or are shown the door.]

The hearing was the second called by McCain to examine consolidation in the radio industry. The first focused on Clear Channel, the nation's largest radio broadcaster.

"We're going to keep going on this," McCain tells Billboard. "Look, I'm a proud deregulator. But the fact is, this is an aspect of media concentration that should give everyone pause. It's very disturbing." [Liar. If you’re a proud deregulator, you’d be supporting Clear Channel and Cumulus. Let the free economy be free, John. It will work itself out.]

McCain said of Renshaw's testimony: "I admired his courage. It will be interesting to see if there's any reaction to it."

The Federal Communications Commission eased decades-old restrictions on ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations in a controversial vote June 2.

Several Congressional efforts are under way to roll back most of the provisions in that ruling. But the FCC also responded to criticism by tightening some radio ownership rules.

An amendment sponsored by McCain would expand those new radio regulations so that they apply to stations a company already owns. [Nice deregulation, John. Liar.]

If enacted, the change could force companies like Clear Channel to sell stations in markets where they exceed ownership limits. [Nothing signals “healthy free market” like government-mandated ownership limits.]

Long time, no blog. But I'm back.