Clash of US Radio Titans, Clear Channel Mulls Digital Merits

23 July 2004

The row between American media giants Clear Channel Communications and Viacom has turned into a full-scale furore.

Clear Channel dropped shock-jock Howard Stern last April [WAMN: 12-Apr-04] following his 'indecent' broadcasts and the levying of a record $1.7 million (€1.4m; £920,000) fine from the Federal Communications Commission.

Stern, an employee of Viacom's Infinity Broadcasting, retaliated by filing a $10m lawsuit against Clear Channel last month, claiming breach of contract.

And this is exactly the same charge laid by Clear Channel, which this week filed a countersuit against Stern and Infinity of $3–$10m. Clear Channel hopes to recover losses incurred by the FCC fine, lost advertising revenue and a refund of monies paid out to Infinity and Stern's own company, One Twelve.

Clear Channel's chief legal officer, Andy Levin, claims "Stern and Infinity refused to assure us that future programs would conform to the law."

Infinity, with less apparent concern for America's high moral standards, has vowed to stand by Stern, a popular presenter who reaps high ad revenues. But it remains to be seen how long its loyalty will last should it too receive a fine for indecency.

• Separately, Clear Channel is considering the virtues of digital radio, and is investing over $100m in the forthcoming decade to enable its stations to broadcast both digital and analogue signals.

But as few US citizens own a radio capable of receiving digital signals -- and pressure from the Recording Industry Association of America to stop digital radio broadcasts on fears of piracy -- it seems a venture unlikely to succeed.

Clear Channel, however, is keen to avoid costly mistakes and is pushing radio manufacturers to improve their technology.

Data sourced from: and New York Times; additional content by WARC staff