Clear Channel Rallies and the Bush Administration

Paul Krugman on Clear Channel's sponsorship of prowar rallies (New York Times, 3/25/03):

Who has been organizing those pro-war rallies? The answer, it turns out, is that they are being promoted by key players in the radio industry -- with close links to the Bush administration. . . .

Experienced Bushologists let out a collective "Aha!" when Clear Channel was revealed to be behind the pro-war rallies, because the company's top management has a history with George W. Bush. The vice chairman of Clear Channel is Tom Hicks, whose name may be familiar to readers of this column. When Mr. Bush was governor of Texas, Mr. Hicks was chairman of the University of Texas Investment Management Company, called Utimco, and Clear Channel's chairman, Lowry Mays, was on its board. Under Mr. Hicks, Utimco placed much of the university's endowment under the management of companies with strong Republican Party or Bush family ties. In 1998 Mr. Hicks purchased the Texas Rangers in a deal that made Mr. Bush a multimillionaire.

There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear, but a good guess is that we're now seeing the next stage in the evolution of a new American oligarchy. As Jonathan Chait has written in The New Republic, in the Bush administration "government and business have melded into one big 'us.' " On almost every aspect of domestic policy, business interests rule: "Scores of midlevel appointees . . . now oversee industries for which they once worked." We should have realized that this is a two-way street: if politicians are busy doing favors for businesses that support them, why shouldn't we expect businesses to reciprocate by doing favors for those politicians -- by, for example, organizing "grass roots" rallies on their behalf?

Clear Channel Rallies

"Media Giant's Rally Sponsorship Raises Questions" (Tim Jones, Chicago Tribune, 3/19/03):

Some of the biggest rallies this month have endorsed President Bush's strategy against Saddam Hussein, and the common thread linking most of them is Clear Channel Worldwide Inc., the nation's largest owner of radio stations. . . .

The sponsorship of large rallies by Clear Channel stations is unique among major media companies, which have confined their activities in the war debate to reporting and occasionally commenting on the news. The San Antonio-based broadcaster owns more than 1,200 stations in 50 states and the District of Columbia.

While labor unions and special interest groups have organized and hosted rallies for decades, the involvement of a big publicly regulated broadcasting company breaks new ground in public demonstrations.

"I think this is pretty extraordinary," said former Federal Communications Commissioner Glen Robinson, who teaches law at the University of Virginia. "I can't say that this violates any of a broadcaster's obligations, but it sounds like borderline manufacturing of the news."

Don’t Let These Peace Protesters Confuse You

Conservative talk radio host organizes prowar rallies; Clear Channel Communications pays for them (Douglas Jehl in the New York Times, 3/24/03):

"Don't let these peace protesters confuse you," Glenn Beck, a conservative radio host from Philadelphia, told the crowd estimated at 10,000 . . . [in Glen Allen, VA on March 23]. "We know we're facing dark and terrible, terrifying times. But I tell you, we will look these times dead in the eye, and we will climb these stairs."

Over the last few weeks, Mr. Beck, whose three-hour program is heard five days a week on more than 100 stations, has helped promote many similar demonstrations under the banner of Rally for America. Some have been financed by radio stations owned by his employer, Clear Channel Communications, the nation's largest owner of radio stations, in an arrangement that has been criticized by those who contend that media companies should not engage in political advocacy.

The rally near Richmond was paid for by WRVA, a local radio station that broadcasts Mr. Beck's program. Executives at WRVA, which is owned by Clear Channel, said they had decided to stage the event in response to calls from listeners, who in turn had been exhorted by Mr. Beck to seek venues for such rallies.