Unwilling Accomplices

Famed journalist Edward R. Murrow once said, “No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.”  I began to wonder if the same couldn’t be said of a single corporation.  Can a corporation terrorize a whole nation without all of us being its accomplices?

Are the quiet complicity and the indifferent ignorance of consumers the makings for a tyrannical corporation or are they the plot details of the success story tales told by defenders of the so-called “free market?”  And if this is the recipe for tyranny, do we really care?

The media behemoth currently ruling the American airwaves is Clear Channel Radio. It dictates music playlists and politics to over 1200 radio stations in the U.S. It boasts of over 110 million listeners and has captured a good 20% of radio’s advertising dollars.

Conservative talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura Schlessinger are just two of the numerous celebrities featured by Clear Channel’s Premiere Radio Network productions, the likes of which are syndicated to more than 7,800 stations across the country. In addition, Clear Channel own 37 television stations, 700,000 billboards, 130 concert venues and plans are in the works for Music Guide Live!, a magazine for the summer concert season.

Right about now you might be asking yourself, ‘So, what’s wrong with that?‘ The problem lies in the business practices of Clear Channel.

After Natalie Mains of the Dixie Chicks expressed shame over President Bush’s willingness towards war, Clear Channel stations across the country stopped playing songs by the group. Clear Channel officials denied a company-wide mandate had been issued, but they didn’t demand that the Dixie Chicks be placed back on the playlist in an effort to prove that narrow kind of political culture
didn’t existed within the company.

Then, there’s homogenization of playlists. Clear Channel is reported to control roughly 60% of rock music programming, so how hard do you think it might be for a local band to get airplay on a Clear Channel station?

There are accusations of pulling popular syndicated programs from radio stations in favor of Clear Channel competing stations, encouraging devoted listeners to switch to Clear Channel stations. Local programming has fallen by the wayside as Clear Channel sets up region-wide “cyber-jocking” to save the cash on local DJ jobs.

Adding to their naughty reputation, Representative Anthony Weiner, a Democrat from New York, asked the Department of Justice for an investigation of Clear Channel Radio’s business practices. Competing stations have accused Clear Channel of operating shell radio stations through front companies while Clear Channel remains the key player when it comes to control.

Let’s face it, Clear Channel doesn’t get any brownie points for inspiring a website called ClearChannelSucks.org, dedicated to bringing to light the company’s dirty little habits. And finally, when was the last time you heard anything here on World Music Central played on a Clear Channel station?

I don’t know if a company like Clear Channel Radio is tyrannical or not. I do know that listeners are getting short changed with the same playlists being played over and over again. I also know local bands, concert tours, world music musicians and fair business practices take a hit when this kind of corporate rule comes to prominence.

But the question remains, are we Clear Channels’ accomplices? We might be. Recently, someone sent me an email saying that Americans love complacency and I wondered if it might be true. Finally, I decided that while we’re quick to jump on the bandwagon, we’re equally quick to jump off. I don’t think we’re as enamored with complacency as some people might think. The key is finding the
moral outrage – finding our inner rebel.

I’m a great believer in finding solutions to problems. For example, I complained bitterly for weeks and months over a woman in the neighborhood who used her obnoxious leaf blower on at all hours of the day and night. Solution: Sneak over in the middle of the night with a bunch of leaves and a bottle of industrial-strength glue and glue leaves to driveway. Now before you start calling the police, I didn’t actually do it, but it was a comfort to have a real solution.

But what is the solution in this case? Is it time we take Clear Channel to task by calling or writing Clear Channel advertisers expressing our disgust? Is it time to call up our congressmen to demand an in-depth investigation? Is it the time to stand up to corporate bullies like Clear Channel Radio and say, ‘Pretty is as pretty does and bring the paperwork to prove it?’ Of course, you could just sit back and do nothing, but you don’t really want to be an accomplice, do you?

Author: TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.

Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.

Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.