My Near-Death Experience With Clear Channel

Shortly after the new millennium, Clear Channel engaged me as publisher of Inside Radio in a very high priced lawsuit. I responded with a similar counter suit. The legal battle went on for years. Never went to court. Was eventually settled and Clear Channel purchased Inside Radio.

You do the math.

Fortunately it all ended fine for me and Inside Radio wound up in the hands of some very talented people in editor Tom Taylor and General Manager Gene McKay. I am still very proud of how these two gentlemen have continued to maintain Inside Radio as the industry's most respected news publication.

I'm not going to re-argue the lawsuits here. It wouldn't be fair for me to represent anything that took place in the proceedings let alone tell just one side of the story. It's all in the public record for the curious. You're free to draw your own conclusions.

But there is another story that might even encourage others who have felt compromised, pressured (or even ruined) by the many radio consolidators that took over the industry ten years ago.

Defending myself against a multi-billion dollar consolidator at the height of its power was a near-death experience for me. There were a lot of consolidators who didn't like my early predictions in Inside Radio that consolidation would be the ruin of radio. I took a lot of heat over that and let the record show I never budged on that position.

We all know what happened.

No one can argue that consolidation was a positive thing for the radio business. Instead, it may have even inflicted more damage at a time when the Internet was coming of age.

But out of bad comes good.

Had it not been for the evil that lurked in consolidation, I probably never would have sold Inside Radio.

Probably would never have been able to take the position as professor of music industry at the University of Southern California.

USC helped me realize just how much trouble radio is in with the next generation. It is terminal. No format can fix it. Radio fiddled while the next generation turned to social networks, file sharing and mobile devices.

Had that Clear Channel lawsuit not happened I would have probably not enjoyed watching the big consolidators prove me right about consolidation -- they can't run their near monopolies and they can't build shareholder value for investors who were promised better results.

Had I not had that near-death experience with Clear Channel, I might still be writing about which program director got fired in the latest economy move somewhere, someplace -- a story that sickens me to this day.

Everything backfired on the consolidators.

Ironically enough, their actions have made me financially independent.

I'm back -- speaking out on the issues and my voice is a strong as it was before I sold Inside Radio.

I was vindicated. Consolidation really was that bad.

All of this would not have been possible for me without the "Evil Empire".

See where I'm going with this?

Many talented radio people are enslaved by consolidators. Employed to be the Lewis Libby for consolidators who couldn't even use a monopoly to build a growth business.

The worst is over.

Now the consolidators will head for the exit. Clear Channel can't downsize and go private fast enough.

Anyone buying into this business now is just wasting money.

Any company staying in radio now without spending considerable time living with the next generation and coming up with a mobile and Internet strategy is history, too.

Here's why I am so optimistic about the used and abused managers, programmers and sales people who have been undervalued and disregarded these past ten years.

Had they been left alone, you can take it to the bank, they wouldn't have lost the next generation to the Internet and mobile devices.

They would have adapted.

Remember, 1996 was before Napster, iPods, iTunes, texting, social networking, YouTube -- before all today's competitors to radio.

They would have told their handlers that satellite radio was not the enemy -- that big corporate consolidators were. Of course, they would have been fired. Instead they stayed on to provide for their families and they paid a great price for it.

The consolidators are dying off.

Radio is on the decline.

Internet streaming is the next big thing and these talented people now have the resume to do what they did so well in radio for the new radio -- on the Internet, and through mobile devices.

The Clear Channels and CBS' of the world have not been able to deliver on their promises of increasing shareholder value, but in a painful and ironic way, they squandered their greatest asset -- their people.

Now it's payback time.