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Public Interest Group Asks FCC to Deny Renewal of Clear Channel Broadcast Licenses

Essential Information, a DC-based public interest group that provides information to the public on important topics neglected by the mass media and policymakers, urged in a complaint to the FCC that Clear Channel, the nation's largest radio conglomerate, be denied license renewal for 63 stations it operates.

"The FCC is required by statute to deny applications for license renewal if a licensee exhibits poor character," said Jim Donahue, project director of Essential Information, which filed the complaint with the FCC. "In the three years since Clear Channel became the largest holder of station licenses in the nation, it has demonstrated that it lacks the requisite character to hold broadcast licenses," Donahue said, "and Clear Channel has compiled a record of repeated law-breaking."
Public Interest Group Asks FCC to Deny Renewal of Clear Channel Communication Broadcast Licenses

WASHINGTON - September 24 - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should deny renewal of broadcast licenses for 63 radio stations owned by Clear Channel Communications, a San Antonio, Texas, communications company, a public interest group urged today.

Essential Information, a Washington, DC-based public interest group that provides information to the public on important topics neglected by the mass media and policymakers, urged in a complaint to the FCC that Clear Channel, the nation's largest radio conglomerate, be denied license renewal for 63 stations it operates. The 63 stations are located in Washington, DC, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland; their licenses will automatically be renewed on October 1, 2003 unless the FCC denies renewal.

"The FCC is required by statute to deny applications for license renewal if a licensee exhibits poor character," said Jim Donahue, project director of Essential Information, which filed the complaint with the FCC. "In the three years since Clear Channel became the largest holder of station licenses in the nation, it has demonstrated that it lacks the requisite character to hold broadcast licenses," Donahue said, "and Clear Channel has compiled a record of repeated law-breaking."

"Clear Channel and its subsidiaries have violated the law on 36 separate occasions over the last three years, demonstrating its poor character," said Donahue. "Clear Channel is not qualified to hold a broadcast license under the FCC's own character rules," he added.

"The FCC has held that licensees which exhibit a pattern of illegal conduct shall be denied the privilege of broadcasting on the public's airwaves because such licensees cannot be considered truthful or reliable in complying with the Communications Act of 1934 or FCC regulations," said Donahue.

Clear Channel's illegal behavior includes:

Misleading the public about the rules for radio contests, including its "So You Want to Win 10,000" contest which offered a prize of "10,000" to listeners who could accurately answer 10 questions - without informing the audience that the prize was "10,000 Italian Lira" (or 53 dollars), not 10,000 dollars;

Deceptive advertising;

Broadcasting conversations without obtaining permission of the second party to the conversation;

Broadcasting obscene and indecent material during daylight hours when children are likely listening;

Illegally taking operational control of a radio station;

Repeatedly flouting the rules pertaining to the testing of the emergency alert system, maintenance of station logs, and antenna construction;

Conviction for animal cruelty in violation of state law for the purpose of promoting an on-air personality;

Pleading guilty to criminal mischief in violation of state law for the purpose of promoting an on-air personality;

Disturbing the peace in violation of state law for the purpose of promoting an on-air personality;

Defacing public property in violation of state law for the purpose of promoting an on air personality; and

Falsely causing a public emergency to be reported for the purpose of promoting an on air personality.

On September 3, 2003, FCC Chairman Michael Powell stated on CSPAN that Clear Channel "may have concentrated too much" after Congress enacted the 1996 deregulation law and that "there may be issues associated with that company" which the FCC should consider scrutinizing.

"Essential Information urges Chairman Powell to follow-through on his words and consider the issue of repeated company-wide law-breaking by Clear Channel and whether its concentrated corporate structure increases its propensity to violate the law," Donahue said. "The FCC should begin the process of scrutinizing Clear Channel's poor character," he said. "Essential Information's complaint provides a compelling case for denying Clear Channel's applications for renewal of its broadcast licenses," he added.

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