Pardon Clear Channel?

With all the talk about a possible presidential pardon for Scooter Libby, I got to thinking whether the radio industry should consider pardoning Clear Channel -- not for high crimes and misdemeanors because there has never been evidence such acts were committed but for blowing consolidation.

Some members of the jury have come out in favor of the president pardoning Libby even though they just convicted the aide to Vice President Cheney. Since they can find it in their hearts to forgive Libby, can radio forgive Clear Channel?

Can its employees see it in their hearts to let go of the fact that Lowry and Mark Mays could have named Jimmy deCastro to run the assembled group of stations, but instead chose Randy Michaels. Michaels was a bright guy with a style like a hammer. But deCastro was a proven winner from the AMFM station group that Clear Channel purchased. His stations were making money hand over fist at the time. And deCastro had the human relations skills of Dale Carnegie and the enthusiasm of Tony Robbins. Imagine how deCastro could have assimilated Clear Channel's stations into his very successful AMFM group?

Is it time to forgive the San Antonio based group for acting unilaterally creating a one-group coalition of the willing without the support and consultation of other radio groups? That other guy from Texas mounted his horse and road into the Iraq war alone and his job approval rating is as low as the price of Clear Channel stock.

And while we're on the topic of shareholder value, can all those owners of CCU who were guided (or misguided) by investment bank analysts forgive this mega corporation for making their per share investment shrink from the high $90 range to the $30 range? Didn't they think radio was a growth sector when they invested in Clear Channel?

What about for that embarrassing self-serving stunt called "Less In More" that some advertisers called "More For Less"? Did it believe it had the ability to will its commercial cutting strategy on the entire industry when in the end that tactic didn't even work for them? Cutting commercials is a good thing. Shouldn't they have just done it without making a federal case out of it and listeners would have responded with higher ratings?

Or for standing in the way of replacing the antiquated paper diary system in this age of technology with the Arbitron People Meter. Even at this moment, Clear Channel, owner of over 1,100 stations is encoding its signal and subscribing on just one market with no announced plans to back it elsewhere as the national roll-out begins. Can the industry forgive that lack of leadership? What about advertisers who want the People Meter?

Or for giving us virtual voice tracking -- the single most inappropriate way to take radio's main advantage -- its localism -- and squander it by masquerading as a way to make smaller markets sound more professional while cutting jobs and using on-air people to cut tracks for multiple markets?

Is radio ready to pardon Clear Channel for the many careers that were shipwrecked and for tying the hands of many of its key people while it deferred to Wall Street inspired cost cutting? The litigation. The bull in the china shop management. Jimmy deCastro wouldn't have done it this way. His employees loved him -- still do. And the Mays' could have chosen him to run the radio group.

Can Clear Channel be forgiven for doing virtually nothing to help adapt to the mobile devices and Internet that the next generation demanded? But perhaps they will be out of the business by the time the rest of the industry has to seriously consider why it has lost its young demographics to a cell phone with iTunes built in.

Do I mention embracing HD technology -- an idea whose time has come and gone while the industry fought over it and now the biggest group helps lead everyone else to the hemlock?

Or for the biggest sin of all -- exiting the business leaving it no better off for having just about every advantage -- only to anticipate another pay day when they downsize and maybe even another pay day yet when they sell off the remainder of their assets? If you can't make a radio group work (i.e., produce shareholder value) when the law lets you own all the good real estate, then what must you do for your next act? Sell?

Is the industry ready to let go of acts past and future that have not been in the interest of the radio industry as a whole including the possible sale of hundreds of smaller market stations to one buyer thus creating another "Clear Channel". This instead of selling the assets back to individual local owners and minority groups. Helping to finance the purchases would also be the right thing to do.

Congress enabled the modern day Clear Channel. The FCC blessed them. The public believed them.

Will their shareholders forgive them and vote to let Clear Channel head for the door with lots more money or will they nix the sale and force them to use their exit strategy to build up their weak share price?

And, that brings us back to Scooter Libby.

A lot of people are sick of politics as usual and even though they were sympathetic toward him for being the fall guy, they voted to convict.

I'm wondering is radio sick of consolidation as usual and even though they might be sympathetic toward the people who have to tend to what others have called "The Evil Empire", are they willing to pardon Clear Channel and order this first big radio consolidator to the prison of forever being seen as the company that presided over the decline of the radio industry.

Isn't that punishment enough?