Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Who Should Own Radio Stations?

From the same Dow Jones story reporting on the Clear Channel deal and the company's future comes this:

Last summer, Reps. John Dingell, D-Mich., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., chairmen of the House Commerce Committee and of the Telecommunications Subcommittee, respectively, expressed concern in a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin about the increasing role of private equity in media consolidation.

And Michael Copps, the senior Democrat on the FCC, has repeatedly stated his misgivings about the number of deals in which private investors have been involved.

My question to Mr. Copps and to our distinguished representatives in Washington is, who should own radio stations? They don't seem to care for the public market and they have "misgivings" about private equity--who's left?

The Future of Clear Channel

Dow Jones reported today that managing director Richard Bessler of T.H. Lee Partners went before the House Telecommunications Subcommittee and gave us all a glimpse into what Clear Channel will look like in the future.

"Clear Channel Communications Inc.'s (CCU) future path would be "best served" by focusing on fewer radio stations in fewer media markets"...

...said in prepared opening remarks..."that he thought Clear Channel would do well by deconsolidating itself".

"This streamlined approach, in our view, enables Clear Channel to more efficiently deploy and market its digital offerings in the face of competitive challenges from other digital platforms."

Sounds to me like Clear Channel will be a vastly different and smaller company once the deal closes. After reiterating that he expects the deal to close the market responded by sending shares of CCU up more than 6%.

What will be sold off, what he means by "more efficiently deploy and market digital offerings," and what it means for the remaining terrestrial products is not clear. But what we can be sure of is that more bone-crushing change is afoot.

12 years after consolidation began in earnest we are now starting to see the unwinding of some of these deals and I believe many more to come. Only time will tell if this turns out to be a good or a bad thing. Some would argue it could only be good; but I say temper those sentiments until we see the end results. My hope is we see investors come to the table with the desire to make a lot of money(I am a capitalist after all), but, also a desire to rethink, reinvigorate, reinvest in the medium that is capable to engage one's mind in ways a picture can't. To quote that cheesy network radio commercial, "people judge you by the words you use."

I don't know about you, but when I hear a voice on the radio (or podcast) the first thing I try to imagine is what that person looks like. I'm always wrong!

Happy Anniversary

It was 10 years ago the first mp3 player was released by a tiny Korean company. Soon to be followed by countless others, some of which you may be familiar with. Of course, this invention ushered in a new era in portable on-demand music that changed everything! (not to minimize broadband speed and an infinite amount of content--free and otherwise on the 'net)

From Engadget:

Odds are, you take your iPod or Zune for granted. You probably don't think about the crazy technological advancements we've made, but take a ten-year look back at the world's first MP3 player -- the MPMan F10 -- and you'll get a sense of just how far we've come. Manufactured by Korea's Saehan Information Systems, the device was launched in March of 1998 at CeBIT, and went on sale in the Summer through Eiger Labs for $250. The player featured 32MB of flash memory (which could be upgraded to 64MB via mail-in scheme), connected to PCs via parallel port, and had a miniscule LCD for playback info -- but it laid the groundwork for the tech we have today. Following the MPMan's release, Rio unleashed its PMP300, which received a warmer reception and all-but eclipsed the F10's status as "first" amongst players, likely due to the company's well-known (and groundbreaking) legal battle against the RIAA. Still, first is first, so help keep the MPMan's rich history alive, and celebrate its ten-year anniversary this month with campfire songs and story-telling. Check out the archived read link of the original Eiger Labs site for a wild and wacky trip through time.