Clear Channel: Mission Accomplished

One can't help but think of George Bush's premature "Mission Accomplished" photo op before the Iraq war was over when one thinks of Clear Channel. Clear Channel yesterday announced intentions to evaluate "strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value" just before it retained Goldman Sachs as a financial advisor. Translated for the common folk: Clear Channel may be considering a private buyout that would put the Mays family back in total control. In fact Clear Channel never accomplished its mission. It can't seem to get the stock price above $30 a share even with the industry's largest platform of radio stations. A lot of investment bankers got rich on the upside. The Mays' made some money and many good employees were let go or driven off by the experiment in consolidation that has failed. What's worse is that radio is no longer a growth business. And that all public radio companies looking to go forward may fall prey to hedge fund money. But that's another scary story for another time. "Less is More" hasn't worked. Only low share prices not more benefit to listeners or advertisers. When the biggest consolidator can't run its radio stations and make it a growth business you can see why going private has to be considered. Randy Michaels built Clear Channel. It wouldn't own the strong properties it does if Michaels hadn't been shrewd enough to understand and implement the acquisition of the right faciltiies. And when Clear Channel and Michaels had a falling out about four years ago, Michaels was apparently sent to the Internet office in some capacity. Little was heard from him. In fact, Clear Channel should have turned Michaels loose on Internet issues and it would no doubt dominate there today. With the NAB asking the FCC to loosen ownership rules again, what will it take for dominant companies to learn their lessons. Radio is local. Virtual jocks are virtually useless. Economies of scale impress investors (maybe) for three months, but investments in programming, research and people deliver the best dividends. Less is never more to advertisers. More for less, maybe, but more for more is how a leader grows a business. Now with the next generation tuned out and technology passing radio by would be a good time for other responsible companies who want to save radio -- at least for a while -- to go to school on Clear Channel. Their missions are only beginning.