Open Mike9/22/2002 08:00:00 PM Eastern
Editor: I was very disappointed in the way your Sept. 2 issue ("Is this man killing local radio?" page 18) portrayed Clear Channel. The front-page headline, with word killing
in extra-large, bright-red letters was a cheap shot and an insult to all the fine employees of Clear Channel. It is a precisely this kind of provocative exaggeration that provided ammunition to media critics who complain about the media distorting the news.
As to the question of whether Clear Channel is "killing local radio," we are very proud of our extensive track record of learning what radio audiences want on a local level and then delivering it to them through our stations. Perhaps that is why so many of our stations are No. 1 and No. 2 in the ratings in their local markets.
We are equally proud of the countless ways our stations support vital local community and charitable programs, continuing the Clear Channel tradition of giving back to the communities of the cities and towns our stations serve.
Your sensationalist headlines might help sell magazines, but they only serve to hurt your credibility. Bill McConnell's article was, in fact, a fair and honest record of my answers to his questions. It's a shame that you trivialized the article by your sensational cover treatment.9
Mark Mays, president/COO, Clear Channel Worldwide, San Antonio
Editor: Each week I look forward to receiving and reading your fine publication. However, the issue of Sept. 2, has me deeply troubled. Bill McConnell had some interesting observations in the story "Is sex at St. Pat's indecent?" (page 17) However, the disturbing fact is that you felt it necessary to publish a very disgusting photo of Opie and Anthony in which Opie was flipping us off. It's attitudes like this that continues to give radio a bad name and image. If he did that on a street corner, somebody would likely get out of their car and beat the pulp out of him.
I can't image why management would allow such a hideous on-air endeavor in the first place, and, if management didn't know about it in advance, they weren't doing their job. When are people going to take responsibility for their acts of less than desirable action and quit whining about their First Amendment rights to try to justify this type of on-air smut? If radio doesn't police itself to better serve the public, it could be that someone else will need to.
Whatever happened to the good old days of radio when localism and talent drove the listeners?
Darrell Solberg, president, DDS Marketing, Sioux Falls, S.D.
Editor: We're compelled to express our concerns with the article about the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council in the Sept. 9 issue ("The Greening of the MMTC," page 26). The article was balanced, but it was profoundly and objectively inaccurate, and it glossed over the civil-rights context, which would have made our media-ownership strategy understandable to those unfamiliar with the subject matter.
Let's start with what was factually wrong:
The article asserts that we have "lobbied Congress." Not true. We are a not-for-profit, 501(c) (3) organization, so we don't do lobbying.
You state that we operate a "for-profit brokering business." That's absolutely not true, since all of the income from our brokerage is spent on efforts to promote minority ownership and equal employment opportunity.
You assert that MMTC earned "more than $2 million brokering deals from" Clear Channel and Infinity. The actual figure was $1.3 million spread over six years of hard work.
The article states that, after the Clear Channel/AMFM merger, our executive director's "compensation also rose" some 255% between 1998 and 2000, "according to IRS filings." We would never tie any employee's compensation to brokerage income. The 1998 salary figure ($41,125) you quoted was for just over five months of employment, while the 2000 figure you compared it to was for 12 months of employment. The merit salary increase was 17%, not 255%. Further, it was awarded nine months before the Clear Channel/AMFM merger was announced.
The premise of the article was that, since MMTC has "challenged mergers," it might be inappropriate for us to help merging companies give minorities a chance to buy spinoff properties. The truth is that MMTC has never challenged a merger. MMTC feels that, with very rare exceptions, the FCC should establish merger policy prospectively in general rulemakings, not case by case. The 50 national organizations that we represent before the FCC have been fully supportive of our brokerage. Minority ownership is endangered, and every creative means must be used to fight for it.
Henry M. Rivera, chairman; Erwin Krasnow, vice chair; Lawrence Roberts, secretary; and Dr. Everett C. Parker, treasurer, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council
As to the errors:
Nonprofits are not prohibited from lobbying but are barred from dedicating more than 20% of expenditures to lobbying.
We should have said "revenue-generating" not "for-profit." The revenue figure should have been "more than $1 million," not "more than $2 million."
The article does not state that performance of the brokerage business determines MMTC Executive Director David Honig's salary. But it remains the case that Honig received no salary in 1997 and has since 1998, when the brokerage business was started, received a salary that has subsequently been increased.
We should have drawn a clearer distinction between Honig's work for MMTC, where he has not been trying to block mergers, and his past efforts to block mergers as a representative for various minority organizations.