Send Clear Channel to Rehab

I hope the rumors are false.

I hope that Clear Channel is not about to deal hundreds of stations to one buyer creating an instant mini-Clear Channel.

Clear Channel is selling off its assets after running the shareholders value down and they are in the process of settling on a buyer for the majority of some 400+ stations they are looking to deal. These stations are obviously non-essential to their new plan which is to remain in the big markets once they've sold off these stations and other assets.

What's upsetting and probably not surprising is the prospect that one operator could pick up this critical mass of radio stations. If an existing group owner gets the bulk of the stations, then Clear Channel helps to make another consolidator bigger. If Clear Channel sells the majority of these smaller market stations to a new entity then it has accomplished in one move what most of the other consolidators took years to do -- create a big platform of stations.

It's all about the money and timing -- they want to get this done, get their money and get out.

Clear Channel could have decided to make the majority of these stations available to mini-groups -- minorities, special interests, regional operators who want to get into radio. In a way the biggest consolidator ever could help break up some of the mass that has been weighing down the industry. That move would be helpful to the industry because as Clear Channel well knows size alone doesn't insure success. Why do you think they are getting out?

If Clear Channel really cared about the industry they helped drive under, they could rehabilitate themselves (and rehab is in these days) by making it possible for smaller groups to take the baton. They could also provide some financing or lean on some of their investment banker friends to help new owners get into the business. I know what you're thinking. What has this guy been smoking? Look, a big company can make money and care about the industry they're in. And Clear Channel owes radio and owes a lot of radio people.

Clear Channel leveraged some of the best stations, markets and people in the entire industry and it did it all not with cunning and intelligence but with money -- someone else's. And they let their lenders down and made off like bandits when the stock tanked.

So I say send Clear Channel to rehab. Brittany went. Lindsay went. How about a 12 step program that begins as all of them do with an admission that they have a problem. Something like, "I am Clear Channel Radio and I'm a bad investment for Wall Street".

Radio has serious problems. Consolidation didn't exactly help it to get in on the Internet revolution. Now the segment is ice cold and the granddaddy of consolidation is looking for a paycheck. (I think there will be more paychecks if they hold some properties for five years and start selling more assets).

We could only dream of a kinder, gentler Clear Channel. And I know it's a dream because they had an opportunity to help redistribute their non-essential stations for the greater good and if they are anything they are consistent.

Hey, Brittany may have been in and out of rehab in one day, but Clear Channel never went. If any one media company needed to pay a debt of gratitude to the industry they failed this is the one.

I hope I am wrong and Clear Channel makes me eat my words because they didn't sell hundreds of stations to one group.