Clear Channel's rise
Media company that owned nothing in Syracuse five years ago now dominates radio — and is still growing
May 18, 2003
By William LaRue
If the 5 a.m. newscast, "Daybreak," on WIXT-TV (Channel 9) in Syracuse is flickering on your screen, you're tuned to a Clear Channel station.
Ride to work while music plays from an XM Radio receiver. You're listening to a new satellite-delivered audio service whose major stockholders include Clear Channel.
At 1 p.m., turn the AM dial to WSYR, a Clear Channel radio station. You're hearing talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, whose show is distributed nationally by Clear Channel.
In the evening, while listening to one of six other Syracuse radio stations owned by Clear Channel, get dressed for a Landmark Theatre concert booked by Clear Channel Entertainment.
And if you're taking a late-night flight, there's a good chance you'll land in a city that's home to at least one of Clear Channel's more than 1,200 other U.S. radio stations, one of its 39 television stations and maybe some of its 776,000 outdoor advertising displays. And these totals don't include the company's growing holdings in other countries.
"One of their executives once told me it (Clear Channel) wants to 'own' in-car advertising, which is why they also bought billboard companies. It's a smart move," says Lee Abrams, XM's chief programming officer.
"If anyone said we were in the radio business, it wouldn't be someone from our company," [Clear Channel Founder and CEO] Mays, 67, told the magazine. "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."
In March 2000, Clear Channel bought soft-jazz WHCD (106.9 FM) for $2.5 million from Salt City Communications, of Syracuse.
Competitors again opposed the deal, filing comments with the FCC that expressed concern that Clear Channel would treat WHCD as a Syracuse station, even though its transmitter is in Cayuga County and the station is licensed for the Auburn and Ithaca radio market. They also predicted Clear Channel would change the format to something more profitable.
In a written reply, Clear Channel told the FCC its critics were engaging in "speculation and conjecture."
After the FCC approved the deal, Clear Channel did precisely what opponents predicted – it moved WHCD to the company's Syracuse radio headquarters at Bridgewater Place, a large office building just off Franklin Square. The station then got a new format as urban contemporary WPHR-FM (Power 106.9).