Media Deconsolidation (Part 16): Clear Channel Crackup

by on November 17, 2006

Back in Part 5 of this series last April, I discussed the looming breakup of radio giant Clear Channel. And now that day is here. According to Frank Ahrens of the Washington Post, Clear Channel “has agreed to sell the company to a consortium of private-equity firms and plans to shear off more than one-third of its 1,150 radio stations, dismantling a giant that dominated the industry and became the bogyman of media consolidation for the past half-decade.” Moreover, “In a separate transaction also announced yesterday, Clear Channel said it would seek buyers for all of its television stations and 448 of its smaller radio stations,” mostly in smaller markets.

Again, don’t expect the Chicken Little media critics to acknowledge any of this. As I’ve said again and again in this ongoing series, this is an example of a well-functioning, competitive marketplace at work. Media critics think every merger or acquisition is all just part of some sort of grand conspiracy to destroy democracy or competition. But when the opposite happens and firms reorganize or downsize, the critics never say a peep.

In the end, regardless of what ownership patterns and structures look like, markets sort things out and we end up with an ever-expanding universe of media options at our disposal. In sum, despite what the Chicken Littles predict, the sky never falls. Seriously, ask yourself a simple question: Do you have more media options and outlets at your disposal today than you did 5 to 10 years ago? Read my last book if you want to see the evidence.

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