My Clear Channel Spin-off Fantasy

What do you call radio groups that want to buy some or all of Clear Channel's 448 spin-offs? Opportunists? Smart investors? Fools? With Lehman Brothers projecting 2007 to be radio's worst year since 2001, what must potential buyers of radio stations be thinking? Well, they are certainly not thinking what radio's pioneers thought back in the 50's and 60's -- that is, let's buy some radio stations. We can take the losses. All that Clear Channel will prove is that there is still money to be made trafficking radio properties. Radio stations still generate lots of free cash flow even if they aren't what they used to be. Selling 448 non-top 100 markets under present financial, technological and generational conditions is like buying the Titanic on the way down. That's a bit dramatic, but worse yet, Clear Channel will likely earn $2.5 billion for its 448 radio spin-offs and 42 TV stations and that's just the tip of the iceberg (did I say Titanic and iceberg?). Clear Channel should sell the 448 radio stations back to as many small operators as possible even if it has to leave money on the table. What am saying? That's pure fantasy. Yet these 448 stations should be the first to return to their rightful owners -- the people and the "permitees" who should be held accountable for operating them in the public interest. Remember where all this radio value came from in the first place -- independent operators with relatively small groups -- satisfying their audiences and monetizing their businesses through relationship selling. I now interrupt my fantasy to return you to Phase Two of Consolidation known as trafficking already in progress: The Return of the Screw.