I’ve been around radio most of my life. My dad was a radio guy. I became a radio guy. And I was doing affiliate relations for our radio networks when things started to change in the late 90’s, when federal media ownership rules were relaxed and companies like Clear Channel started buying up hundreds of local stations.
Alec Foege has written a book –Right of the Dial– that tells the Clear Channel story. According to the review in the New York Times, Foege tried to give the company the benefit of the doubt.
“I was not out to do a hatchet job,” he writes in the preface to “Right of the Dial,” “but rather to get to the bottom of a company that I suspected had gotten a raw deal as its bad publicity had snowballed.”
The reader need wait only three paragraphs before Foege renders his final verdict: “Having spent a lot of time talking to some of the company’s most prominent critics, as well as some of its most devout supporters, I have concluded that Clear Channel is indeed to blame for much of what it has been accused of.”
The Internet and iTunes and all the rest were going to have a big impact on radio, no matter what. But I have to wonder if local radio stations might not have been better prepared for the challenges if they hadn’t been gutted and commoditized by the Clear Channel’s.