Friday, May 09, 2003

Clear Channel's Media War
Walking along the M32 I noticed the interesting change in the billboards that clutter the road into Bristol, normally I check out the adverts admiring the work of the subvertisers, but this time there was something new that caught my eye; the 'Adshel' logo under each board has bean replaced with the name of the new owner - Clear Channel. The arrival of Clear Channel means there is a storm coming...

Most people in the UK won't know the name, but in the US they are well known with 1,225 radio stations, 37 television stations and 776,000 billboards. They are a major player in the music business where their stations can promote a band, their ticket agencies can sell you tickets to see them play in venues they control. But there's nothing new about a media empire? Well remember the Bond film 'Tomorrow Never Dies' where media mogul Elliot Carver decides the best way to get ratings is to make the news rather than simply report it? Well the department of life-imitates-art can report that Clear Channel as doing a similar thing. In the US, the corporation has been using its 1225 radio stations to promote pro-war rallies by a group called 'Rally for America(tm)'. Notice the trade mark? The protest group are owned by Clear Channel. Yup, clear channel was making the news it was then reporting. Why? Well its pretty clear (pun) as the corporation about as big as it can get in the states without changes to the rules. So who makes the decision on the rules? Secretary of State Colin Powell's son, Michael Powell who’s the head of the Federal Communications Commission and being pro-war ain't gonna harm their case is it?

So what has that go to do with the UK? Well Clear Channel have been busy shopping and came home with lots of goodies including advertising firms Adshel, More and Taxi Media, the billboard arm of Scottish Radio Holdings. Its entertainment division SFX also manages live event arenas such as the Edinburgh Playhouse theatre and also promotes footballers Alan Shearer, Michael Owen and David Beckham. And that's not all. As the government plans to allow overseas companies to own UK media companies, Clear Channel boss Mays remarked that, "...nothing would give me more pleasure than to be able to bring one of the leading UK radio groups into the Clear Channel family..."

Remember the furore over the Dixie Chicks comments and backlash against their right to free speech? Well Clear Channel was the cheerleader of that particular hate campaign, which hasn't stopped the band selling out their shows, but has lead to allegations of censorship.

Remember allegations of bias in reporting the war? In a leaked memo on war coverage, the company listed pundits it could interview and at the bottom of the list of 33 suggestions are 'Anti-war types'. Yup, if you were against the war then your views rank well below that of Terrorism experts, Chemical/Biological warfare experts, High ranking local, military or ex-military officials, Military History professors, Former G-Men, Veterans of Desert Storm or the recent Afghanistan Conflict, Local families with loved ones currently in the Middle East and so on.

So get ready for the next war, 'cause when the War On Terror (tm) Axis of Evil (tm) round-two occurs the streets might be full of protestors from 'Rally for Britain(tm)' calling for the bombing of Iran organised by your local radio stations in your name!

But there is an alternative. Bristol has a burgeoning indy media scene and it is fast becoming the only bastion of grass-roots democracy; so buy the current issue of Bristle, support the Indymedia fundraiser of the 16th May at the Black Swan and the community media day; because the only people who benefit from a free and objective media are us and the best way to ensure that is to create our own media.

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