SAN ANTONIO: Clear Channel Communications faced a series of tough ethical questions last week when it was revealed that the company's stations were behind a series of "pro-troops" rallies that drew tens of thousands of participants.
Despite Clear Channel corporate's insistence that it didn't issue an order to undertake the series of "Rallies for America," several articles suggested that the stance was an attempt on the part of the nation's largest radio network to influence media-ownership issues now pending before Congress and the FCC.
A New York Times op-ed piece was especially scathing. "Critics say (Clear Channel) uses its power to squeeze recording companies and artists, and contributes to the growing blandness of broadcast music," wrote Paul Krugman.
"But now the company appears to be using its clout to help one side in a political dispute that deeply divides the nation."
Lisa Dollinger, Clear Channel Radio's SVP for marketing and communications, directed questions about the rallies to The Glenn Beck show, which hosted events in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and other cities. The show is syndicated nationally by a subsidiary of Clear Channel Worldwide. Dollinger declined to answer questions about the implications of the company's attempting to influence regulatory matters.
Mediachannel.org's Danny Schechter, a critic of media consolidation, said he didn't draw a line from the rallies to Clear Channel corporate.
But, he added, given the history of media companies' lobbying efforts when it comes to ownership rules, he didn't have to.
"There are very real interests here, and in the network world, there is an osmosis," he said. "This doesn't mean that Clear Channel has ordered its DJs to do that. What is more significant is that they didn't order their DJs not to do it."