Beyond Clear Channel

We'll be hearing plenty about the breakup of radio's friendly giant -- I kid -- but I'm now looking to begin focusing a long conversation on the great beyond. Let's not kid ourselves. The 448 smaller markets Clear Channel is selling could go to one or two mini-consolidators -- maybe public companies -- and then I'm not so optimistic. They could and should sell some to minorities, but they should also subsidize these minority owners not just let them die on the vine. If the "lower 448" wind up in the hands of mom and pop operators, entrepreneurs, my graduates at USC, you'll see a rebirth of local, personality-oriented, music and news on the radio. But Clear Channel for the next five years or so is likely to remain in the hands of the Mays' -- the people who had every advantage but couldn't lead the industry it dominated. But they'll be weakened. I think the end game is hold it and sell it -- profit again. We'll see. Meanwhile they will likely, in my opinion, put themselves at a competitive disadvantage by cutting costs further. They still dominate the top 100 markets so they matter. I'm hoping some other public companies go private. That's a tricky deal with shareholder get rich quick schemes that often result, but the consolidators got in bed with them so they deserve their litigious selves. Returning to long term planning, avoiding the quarterly freak show that Wall Street now requires and going to school on the next generation to right radio's wrongs are now at least on paper and in theory possible. It will take that and more for radio to re-invent itself and to do what radio had better start doing now -- no questions asked -- get into new content businesses. Remember the fate of the railroad barons in the early 20th century? They thought they were in the railroad business not the transportation business. And that's why we don't fly B&O Airlines today. And why the railroads are a relic. We'll talk more about the great beyond especially from the perspective that the key to tomorrow is becoming relevant again with today's youth. But for now: Clear Channel is not going to be as big. They may neuter themselves over the next five years. And there is a new-found glimmer of hope for a medium gone mad for money.