Clear Channel Execs Donate More to Bush

Clear Channel, rejecting Howard Stern’s claims that he was canned for slamming President Bush, says its radio network does not have a political agenda.

Clear Channel, rejecting Howard Stern’s claims that he was canned for slamming President Bush, says its radio network does not have a political agenda.

But new political contribution data tell a different story about Clear Channel (CCU) executives. They have given $42,200 to Bush, vs. $1,750 to likely Democratic nominee John Kerry in the 2004 race.

What’s more, the executives and Clear Channel’s political action committee gave 77% of their $334,501 in federal contributions to Republicans. That’s a bigger share than any other entertainment company, says the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

In contrast, Viacom (VIA) executives and its political action committee gave just 30% of their $545,650 to Republican candidates. Viacom syndicates Stern’s show.

Clear Channel says it suspended talk-show king Stern from six stations Feb. 24 because of his show’s racy content — not because of politics. “We are simply trying to comply” with anti-indecency laws, says Andy Levin, executive vice president. Since his suspension, Stern, who has 8 million listeners, has boosted his attacks on Bush and on Clear Channel officials, who he says favor Bush.

The No. 1 radio network and other media are under election year pressure by Bush administration regulators and Congress to ban broadcast indecency. Clear Channel faces a proposed $755,000 Federal Communications Commission fine over a Tampa radio show host’s sexually explicit high jinks. The network fired host Todd Clem, known as “Bubba the Love Sponge,” last month.

Clear Channel CEO Lowry Mays and his sons led the campaign giving. Mays gave $12,500 to the Republican National Committee in September. He gave $2,000 to Bush in July. President Mark Mays and Chief Financial Officer Randall Mays each gave $2,000 to Bush last year, as well. Levin says these gifts reflect a fact of political life — that companies tend to favor the party in power.

Clear Channel, based in San Antonio, has grown rapidly since Lowry Mays started the company 30 years ago. It has 180 million weekly listeners and 1,200 stations, up from about 200 stations five years ago.

Critics worry that its airwave dominance will stifle diversity of broadcast views as the FCC, Congress and the courts debate restricting radio ownership. “When they are that powerful and they have a political track record, it can make one uneasy,” says Andrew Schwartzman, president of Media Access Project, a watchdog group.

Still, given Stern’s famously off-color programming, it’s just as likely Clear Channel dumped him as a fast sacrifice to Congress’ decency campaign, says Jeff Chester, executive director of the watchdog Center for Digital Democracy.

“They needed to do some kind of modest bloodletting to try to derail this stampede,” Chester says.

Author: Jim Hopkins

News Service: USA Today


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