Right of the Dial: The Rise of Clear Channel and the Fall of Commercial Radio. Alec Foege. London: Faber and Faber, Inc., 2008. 320 pp.
If Enron represented “extreme capitalism” whose hubris brought it crashing to the ground in 2001, its equivalent in finance was Lehman Brothers, which imploded in 2008. In radio, it was probably Clear Channel Communications. These corporate histories bear testimony to the ugliness of greed, and offer only weak hope that unregulated recklessness will surely stumble and fall.
Founded in 1972, and later to become America’s fourth largest media conglomerate, rivaling NBC and Gannett, Clear Channel passed from public ownership in 2008 (though subject to the executive leadership of co-founder Lowry Mays and his sons Mark and Randall) into the hands of two private equity firms, Bain Capital Partners and Thomas H. Lee Partners. Early in 2010, the company flirted with bankruptcy, crippled by the debt of the 2008 buy-out; the decline in radio listenership in the wake of MP3, iPod, and mobile devices; and the fall in advertising revenue after the 2008 economic crisis.