Feds Probe Clear Channel

29 July 2003

America’s Department of Justice is investigating claims that media titan Clear Channel exploited its market dominance to stifle competition.

The probe’s existence was revealed by the DoJ’s antitrust chief Hewitt Pate in front of a congressional committee. Pate admitted an inquiry is underway after lawmaker Howard Berman criticised the Department for its “unwillingness” to respond to a complaint he made in January 2002.

“The Clear Channel matter is one of importance to us,” Pate countered. “We have an open investigation and we’re going to continue to pursue that.”

The DoJ official added that investigators were making “significant efforts to find additional evidence” and had conducted “a number of interviews”.

Clear Channel owns over 1,200 radio stations across the US and also holds outdoor advertising and entertainment interests. The probe focuses on whether the media mammoth has abused such dominance to freeze out competitors. For example, it is accused of limiting the radio airplay of artists who organise their concerts through other firms.

However, Pate warned this would not be easy to demonstrate: “Commercial frustration that artists … have with Clear Channel from time to time is a different question from whether we can prove the presence of market power and the use of that power in a tying situation under [antitrust law].”

Clear Channel’s senior vp–government affairs Andrew Levin was unfazed by the news, dismissing the inquiry as “fairly routine”.

He continued: “We are cooperating fully with all DoJ requests and we are confident the DoJ will find, as it has in the past, that our company is managed with the highest degree of integrity.”

Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff