Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Is Clear Channel Blacklisting Bruce Springseen?

Via Down With Tyranny and, of all places, Fox News, comes this:
Bruce Springsteen should be very happy. He has the No. 1 album, a possible Grammy for Best Album of the Year for "Magic," an album full of singles and a sold-out concert tour.

Alas, there’s a hitch: Radio will not play "Magic." In fact, sources tell me that Clear Channel has sent an edict to its classic rock stations not to play tracks from "Magic." But it’s OK to play old Springsteen tracks such as "Dancing in the Dark," "Born to Run" and "Born in the USA."
But what a situation: The No. 1 album is not being played on any radio stations, according to Radio & Records, which monitors such things. Nothing. The rock songs aren’t on rock radio, and the two standout "mellow" tracks — "Magic" and "Devil’s Arcade" — aren’t even on "lite" stations.

This is all very strange. When one remembers Clear Channel’s boycott of the Dixie Chicks, or the fact that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s company owns Clear Channel and we’re in a presidential election season, it seems a clear case of Clear Channel’s political agenda influencing content on the nation’s largest network of radio stations.

Or is it?

Or, we could remember how Clear Channel banned thousands of songs from its playlists post-9/11, or look at the political contributions of Clear Channel executives, which go overwhelmingly to the GOP. And I have to say, the fact that Clear Channel Chairman Lowry Mays’ son-in-law currently represents Texas’ 10th District in Congress looks mighty fishy.

But tempting as it is to say this proves Clear Channel has a pro-Republican political agenda which limits free speech, it doesn’t. It’s all circumstantial evidence, Your Honor.

Here’s the flip side. I’ve always been of the notion that corporations like Clear Channel would put the devil himself on heavy rotation if they thought it would make them money. Hell, they probably have. And then, we must remember: Fox News is notoriously wrong about everything (even this story: Down With Tyranny notes in an update that a few “independent minded” Clear Channel stations are playing the Springsteen album). Plus, last year, Clear Channel promoted Springsteen’s “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions” with a pre-sale sneak peek. Awfully funny for a liberal-hating conglomerate, I think.

I think there are a lot of reasons Clear Channel could decide not to program Bruce Springsteen that sound just as bad as “they hate liberals.” They could, for instance, be in an argument with Springsteen’s record label. They could be offended at his anti-corporate radio anthem, “Radio Nowhere” (you can watch the video here). Maybe someone decided that “Magic” smacked of the occult and promoted anti-Christian beliefs (hey, it’s Texas, anything is possible.)

Who knows. The real question we should be asking is, should we allow any corporation to have so much control over the public airwaves that they could single-handedly banish an artist from being heard on over 1,000 radio stations across the country for any reason? Clear Channel’s corporate office claims their radio programming reaches more than 110 million listeners every week. There are 300 million people in this country. Should we allow one corporation to control what over a third of the country hears at any given time? Shouldn’t there be a little more, you know, competition than that? A little more diversity in the "marketplace of ideas"?

It’s a timely question, since today in Washington, D.C., the FCC is holding hearings on this very topic.

Food for thought.

(h/t Atrios)--and ThresherK in comments.