By Andy Mannix
By Caleb Hannan
By Olivia LaVecchia
By CP Staff
By Aaron Rupar
By Jacob Wheeler
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Aaron Rupar
Parts of the suit were dismissed. The judge ruled, for instance, that NIPP did not demonstrate that Clear Channel had damaged the reputation of its competitor. And, the court noted, no one came forth to testify that airplay had been denied by Clear Channel simply for booking a show with NIPP (though the court record did include anecdotes claiming as much.)
But, ultimately, Clear Channel's motion to have the suit dismissed was denied, and a jury trial was set. Nottingham concluded, "Antitrust law is the only mechanism by which Clear Channel's behavior may be policed."
In June 2004, Clear Channel settled with NIPP before the case reached trial.
In December 2004, FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein came to St. Paul to participate in a forum on the state of the media. Adelstein had been touring the country with another commissioner since the summer of 2003, when Michael Powell and two other commissioners were proposing further loosening of media ownership rules. (Powell, who recently announced his resignation, got his way in the FCC vote, but an appellate court overturned the FCC decision.)
But don't expect the FCC to rein in Clear Channel's power, Adelstein told me afterward. "We, as a body, very seldom re-regulate what has already been deregulated," he said. "Clear Channel is within the law of ownership. Once it happens, that's it. You can't put toothpaste back in the tube."
But what about all of Clear Channel's other acquisitions in the media/entertainment supply chain? "The only thing we can really control is the newspaper/ radio/television ownership regulations," Adelstein said. "Clear Channel isn't violating any of those regulations. Most of those other businesses they're involved in are out of the purview of the FCC."
And it's for this reason that local attorney Spence believes the company will keep to its present course. "They'll keep expanding and controlling how a large number of us get our music, our art, our entertainment," he says. "They're not going to stop themselves."
Back in November, at the Minneapolis City Council meeting, some council members voiced a reluctance to deal with Clear Channel. Council President Paul Ostrow (First Ward) made a number of amendments that were all voted down. The proposed agreement to negotiate a contract that would run for 30 years and then turn the keys over to Clear Channel's nonprofit business partner, the Hennepin Theatre Trust, left some people leery that Clear Channel would one day own the theaters.
"There is the thought that Clear Channel would have a significant financial stake in the theaters, backing $22 million in bonds," Ostrow says now. "I'm not saying Clear Channel is good or evil. It's a broader question of protecting public assets. There are significant legal rights [at stake] in terms of the operation of these theaters, and hopefully we clarified that going into negotiations."
Either way, the council voted 7 to 4 to enter into negotiations with HTT/HTG/ Clear Channel to run the theaters, with any niggling details to be hashed out by March.
Ostrow's concerns may not be misguided, if the words of the company's own founder are any barometer. "I define competition, at least as far as our company is concerned, as getting all the money," Lowry Mays told the Texas A&M Aggie Daily in 2000 after receiving a distinguished alumni award. And Mays told Fortune magazine in 2003, "We're not in the business of providing news and information. We're not in the business of providing well-researched music. We're simply in the business of selling our customers products."