Providence Equity Partners is reportedly one of the venture capital firms kicking the tires on Clear Channel. If so, it could bring a familiar name back into the media consolidation gambit.
Clear Channel became the poster company for media consolidation during the last round of attempted deregulatory ownership rule rewrites at the FCC under then Chairman Michael Powell.
So much so that the company's Web site features a facts vs. myths section to give its side of charges leveled against the company, including that it banned the Dixie Chicks, dominates radio, and uses its stations to advance a political agenda–all of which the company flatly denies.
So what does the media ownership rule issue, now before the FCC once again, have to do with Providence Equity besides the fact that venture capitalists are always eyeing media properties.
The purchase by Providence would link Clear Channel with Michael Powell yet again. Powell is employed as a senior adviser to Providence Equity, which was where he landed as a consultant on "regulatory issues in the media" among other things, after leaving the FCC in March of 2005. But this time, Clear Channel could possibly become the poster company for de-consolidation.
According to communications attorney Howard Liberman, a partner in the D.C. office of Drinker, Biddle and Reath, Clear Channel is most likely to be bought by a consortium of investors who could then shop pieces of the company to different buyers.
If so, Liberman says that could also put a damper on the "big keep getting bigger" argument media consolidation critics are making at the FCC. He points to the selling of stations by CBS and Disney and, potentially, Tribune.
Powell was on travel at press time and had not yet returned an e-mail for comment.
Providence had not returned a call or e-mail seeking comment on a Wall Street Journal report of their interest in Clear Channel.