Day 340: Roy Warns Me About The Clear Channel Conspiracy

originally published December 5, 2012

“Dude.”

“What is it, Roy?”

“Dude, shit is going down.”

“Come on Roy, it’s Wednesday. I’ve got finals coming up next week, an essay to write for my criticism class, and I haven’t finished that big snow-Al-Franken in my front yard. I don’t have time for your conspiracy theories.”

“Do you know anything about Clear Channel?”

“Clear Channel? The radio people?”

“Fucking Clear Channel, dude. They aren’t people. It’s the company that controls the world.”

“I don’t think they control the world, Roy.”

“Then I’m about to blow your mind.”

“Shit.”

“What do you know about them? You know they’re in radio, but what do you really know about them?”

“They own a bunch of radio stations, right? I don’t listen to terrestrial radio, Roy. No commercials on satellite, and you can hear Howard Stern ask people about their penises. What do I care about radio?”

“Dude. Remember that episode of WKRP In Cincinnati when the ghost of Christmas Future showed Herb Tarlek what his life in radio was going to be like in a few years?”

“Yes, but there’s no way anybody else remembers it, Roy. And I’ll be lucky if I can find a screenshot online to remind people.”

“It was a cold, white, lifeless room with one lonely desk. No DJ’s, no staff. Dude, that’s Clear Channel.”

“Look, I know they syndicate a lot of their shows…”

“A lot of their shows? Dude, they totally own Premiere Networks, the largest syndication company in the United States. Their shows are carried on 5000 stations worldwide.”

“So, people must want to hear these shows. So what? Just because a media company is successful doesn’t make it a conspiracy.”

“They aren’t just successful, dude. They are everywhere. They own over 1200 radio stations in the United States.”

“Okay, that’s a lot.”

“They own eight stations – eight stations – in Ashland, Ohio alone.”

“I don’t even know where that is. Ashland, you say?”

“If you were to hang a cut-out of Ohio on a bulletin board, Ashland is in the spot where you’d probably stick the pin to hold it up.”

“That sounds lovely.”

“It’s also the World Headquarters of Nice People.”

“You’ve been reading Wikipedia again, haven’t you Roy?”

“You can pick up seventeen radio stations in Ashland, including a couple from Cleveland. Eight out of those seventeen stations are owned by the same company. Doesn’t that frighten you?”

“Three of those eight are FM stations running simulcasts of AM stations in the market, so really it’s only five, Roy. I can use Wikipedia too.”

“It’s still too much. It’s controlling the information, the news that people take as truth, the music people call their culture, and the advertising that gets pounded into the collective unconscious.”

“I suppose.”

“Look at Ocean City, Maryland. Seven thousand people and Clear Channel owns eight stations in that market.”

“Why are you telling me all this, Roy? I haven’t even finished my morning coffee yet and you’re prattling off a bunch of statistics about a subject that doesn’t interest me.”

“You’ve got to look at the big picture, dude. Remember 9/11.”

“Clear Channel caused 9/11? I didn’t know that!”

“Dude, right after 9/11, Clear Channel sent out a notice to all 1200 of their stations, advising them not to play ‘lyrically questionable songs.’”

“Okay, they were trying to be sensitive. The nation was wounded, Roy.”

“’On Broadway’ by the Drifters?”

“Broadway is in New York. After 9/11, it was best if people forgot New York existed for a while.”

“Elton John’s ‘Daniel’?”

“He’s travelling tonight on a plane. It was also advised that people forget that planes existed.”

“The Bangles’ ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’?”

“The terrorists came from Egypt. Actually, they didn’t, but to a lot of Americans all those countries are basically the same. Clear Channel isn’t setting the national bar so low, as much as they’re knowing their audience. By playing that song, clearly the terrorists win.”

“Zager and Evans’ ‘In The Year 2525’?”

“That’s just common sense. That song is stupid.”

“Dude. Louis Armstrong’s ‘What A Wonderful World.’”

“Okay, I’ll give you that one.”

“Dude, they got burned in 2004 when a competing company tried to market local shows in Denver, and Clear Channel ordered all its local stations to stop playing music by those artists and didn’t allow the promoter to advertise the shows.”

“Alright, they aren’t the nicest people. But the law still protects the consumer, Roy.”

“Does it?”

“Probably.”

“I’m telling you, dude. Clear Channel is pure evil. They try to stifle free speech too. They decided in 2004 that they didn’t want anyone potentially indecent on any of their stations, so they fired a bunch of their staff. When the Dixie Chicks criticized President Bush, they were yanked off the playlists of every Clear Channel station.”

“Why would they do that?”

Nipple-gate, dude. It all started with Nipple-gate.”

“Oh. Well that makes sense. Nipple-gate damaged a lot of people.”

“Dude, check this shit out.”

“What is that?”

“That’s a Prophet Nex-Gen automation system, dude. They use a single DJ and syndicate it to a bunch of local markets. The DJ never says anything specific about where they’re from, and people have no idea they aren’t listening to a local voice.”

“Is that a big deal?”

“Ask the people of Minot, North Dakota, dude.”

“Can’t I just ask you? I don’t want to get out the phone book.”

“In 2002 there was a train derailment, which leaked – wait, you still use a phone book?”

“Sometimes.”

“Wow. Anyway, one day in January of 2002, 240,000 gallons of toxic anhydrous ammonia spilled, releasing a poisonous gas cloud over the city. Clear Channel owned six local stations, but emergency officials couldn’t get ahold of the stations. With no actual local staff, people had no idea what to do – all they heard was music and some DJ located in some mysterious other place.”

“They were clueless, hey? Just listening to their old cheesy 70’s music with no idea there was a cloud of poison over their heads? Harsh.”

“Well, they weren’t listening to Paper Lace’s ‘The Night Chicago Died’, dude. That song was still a no-no after 9/11.”

“The World Trade Center was in New York.”

“Yep. Close enough, I guess.”

“This is getting scary, Roy.”

“You haven’t heard the worst of it, dude. Remember I said that Clear Channel has been known to censor opinions that were critical of George W. Bush? Well, they are linked at the ballsack with Fox News, dude. Their biggest syndicated cash cows are Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.”

“I prefer to remain politically neutral today, Roy. But politics aside, that’s a lot of manipulative blabbering.”

“Well, look who owns Clear Channel, dude. Just look who owns them.”

“Who?”

“They were bought out by Bain Capital.”

“You mean…”

“Mitt Romney’s company. Damn right, dude.”

“Okay, that’s not good. You have me frightened now Roy, and I’ve still got two and a half days to get through this week. What do we do?”

“Do?”

“How do we stop Clear Channel?”

“We don’t, dude. All we can do is not listen to them.”

“I can do that. George Takei is on Howard Stern all this week. Why don’t we listen to that and head outside to finish that snow-Al-Franken?”

“That’d be nice, dude. That’d be nice.”

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