Many people know little or nothing about Clear Channel Communications. The company was started in 1972 by Lowry Mays and Red McCombs, a well-known San Antonio auto dealer.
The company started out with one radio station in 1972 growing to over 1,100 stations and 700,000 outdoor advertising displays and billboards in 1999.
Clear Channel is no small potato – in 2006, Lowry Mays, as Chairman and CEO earned just under $5 million and his two sons – Mark as President and COO earned over $9.3 million and his brother Randall, as EVP and CFO earned over $9.2 million. I only show these figures to show that Clear Channel is a huge player in media and advertising.
Clear Channel has a long, long history of favoring Republicans – with political donations. In addition, since 9/11, Clear Channel has discriminated against some entertainers and their music by issuing playlists that excluded potentially “offensive” songs such as John Lennon’s, “Imagine”, Peter Paul and Mary’s, “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and Bobby Darin’s, “Mack the Knife”.
Wow, forcing those songs off the air sure made me feel safer. I wonder if Clear Channel petitioned to have the government put Peter, Paul, and Mary on a “do not fly” list.
It was also Clear Channel, in 2003, that pulled the Dixie Chicks songs from their play lists, i.e. banning all Dixie Chicks music on their radio stations just because Natalie Maines, their lead vocalist, said to a London audience, “we don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States [George W. Bush] is from Texas”.
Whether one agrees with what Natalie said or not I do not believe publically owned media companies should be able to ban entertainers because of political statements. I would have expected this in Germany or Egypt or Russia or even Pakistan, but NOT in our country where we profess we have the right to free speech.
At the time, Clear Channel’s vice-chairman was Tom Hicks, who also was chairman of the University of Texas Investment Management Company while George Bush was Governor of Texas. Incidentally, Lowry Mays, of Clear Channel fame, was on UT’s Investment Management Company’s board.
What a case of strange bedfellows, right?
In 2006, Clear Channel explored various ways to increase shareholder value. In October of that same year, Clear Channel went to Wall Street and retained Goldman Sachs as its financial advisor. One month later, in November, Clear Channel entered into an merger agreement with a private equity group led by – no other than – Bain Capital, YES, the company owned by Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for President of the United States.
In 2008, the same year Mitt Romney first ran for President, Clear Channel announced the completion of the merger with an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of CC Media Holdings, Inc., a corporation formed by a private equity group co-led by Bain Capital Partners, LLC and Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P.
So let’s fast forward to 2012 and guess who is running for President – yes, Mitt Romney and his company Bain Capital Partners is now controlling Clear Channel, a media and entertainment company that owns over 850 radio stations and over 1 million outdoor displays in 45 countries and over 200,000 displays in the United States.
All of the above has been presented here to show everyone that Clear Channel has supported the Republican Party and its candidates much more than it has supported Democrats – and that is fine. Many companies lean one way or another – surely there is nothing wrong with that, unless it is done in a way to intimidate voters or even to suppress the vote.
Fast forward to 2012 and we find Mitt Romney running for President again. The big difference this election is that Bain Capital now has a “friend” in the radio and outdoor advertising businesses.
Clear Channel recently entered into a contract with an unnamed customer, who required in the contract, to remain anonymous. The majority of the billboards are in black neighborhoods in Cleveland, Ohio, Columbus, Ohio and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
So, Clear Channel wants us to all believe that they innocently agreed to a contract to display racially charged politically intimidating billboards in mostly black neighborhoods and it was a MISTAKE? They blame the mistake on the sales person who works for Clear Channel Outdoor. They do acknowledge it is not normal for a customer to insist on their name remaining anonymous.
How C-O-N-V-E-N-I-E-N-T, as Church Lady would say.
So, a company now related to Bain Capital, which Mitt Romney is the CEO, absent or not, sells advertising to a private group that is displayed in predominately black neighborhoods to intimidate black voters against voting.
Here are a couple of those billboards:
Here is my take on all of this, like it or not.
No television shows or radio stations are currently talking about the Bain / Clear Channel connection and none of those media giants, including MSNBC, is talking about Clear Channel and the Republican Party connection and none of these media giants are trying to find out who the secret foundation is that paid for the billboard advertising.
That tells me there is a foul smelling skunk in all of this.
What millionaire or billionaire is behind this? Could it even be a Republican PAC? Could it be the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson?
When Clear Channel said the contract prohibited them from sharing information about who rented the signs, they offered to do nothing to counter the racist billboard advertising.
They could have bought some newspaper advertising that would have countered the negative billboards – they could have also promoted free airtime on their hundreds of radio stations owned and operated by Clear Channel. They did neither.
Now, because of the continuous pressure on Clear Channel, they are considering putting advertising on other billboards to offset the damage being done by the initial billboards.
To me, this is too late – the damage might have already been done sufficiently to suppress the black vote.
What I would like to know is why aren’t the Governor of Ohio and the Ohio Attorney General denouncing the billboards?
Why aren’t the Republican Party and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan denouncing the billboards?
Because all of them are tickled white (yes, white and not pink). They quietly, under their breath, support anything that suppresses the black vote.
It is by no accident that these billboards are in Ohio – a swing state essential for a Romney / Ryan win.
These white men, all of them, have no shame.
Also, as far as the white men who run Bain and Clear Channel, they should demand the signs be “white washed” immediately. If any of the signs in question are digital, the electricity should be unplugged.
The Mays family and Red McCombs and Bain Capital and even Mitt Romney should demand that the billboard contract be ripped up. The contract price should be prorated and the “secret” purchaser should be reimbursed. If the purchaser threatens to go to court, then release the purchaser’s name so Americans will know who the real racist is in America.
My gut tells me that the secret billboard purchaser is a very influential Republican or a group of influential Republicans and Clear Channel and Bain do not want that information released.
Racism is still alive in America – especially in Politics.
The concept of “One person, One vote” is a myth. It doesn’t apply to Hispanics, Blacks, college students, our military, and our elderly”.
The above groups represent the 47 percent that the Republicans are doing everything possible to restrict their votes.
Clear Channel appears to be part of the formula, especially now that it is in bed with Bain Capital, because they agreed to enter into a contract that resulted in racially motivated voter suppression type advertising in predominately minority neighborhoods in an important swing state.