The Honorable John Ashcroft
U.S. Attorney General
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington DC 20530
The Honorable Michael K. Powell, Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
The Portals II
445 12th Street SW
Washington DC 20554
Dear Attorney General Ashcroft and Chairman Powell:
I write to express my serious concern about vertical and horizontal integration in the radio, television, and concert promotion industries. Specifically, I am concerned that Clear Channel Communications, Inc. has negatively affected recording artists, owners of sound recording copyrights, consumers, advertisers, and competitors in the radio and television industries.
Clear Channel’s consolidation of the radio and concert promotion industries has had a variety of negative repercussions on recording artists, copyright owners, and consumers. Clear Channel has “punished” recording artists, including Britney Spears, for their refusal to use its concert promotion service, Clear Channel Entertainment, by “burying” radio ads for their concerts and by refusing to play their songs on its radio stations. The consolidation of the radio industry also lends growing support to persistent allegations that record companies often must pay radio stations to play the music of their artists.
These actions have obvious, negative implications for consumers, both through higher concert ticket prices and reduced selections of broadcast music. To the extent your respective agencies have jurisdiction to do so, I believe you should investigate and fully prosecute any violations of the antitrust laws or FCC regulations that have occurred in the above-referenced circumstances.
I am also concerned about related reports of “parking” or “warehousing” of radio and television stations by Clear Channel. These reports allege that Clear Channel has intentionally flouted FCC rules limiting ownership of multiple radio and television stations in numerous markets around the country, including Monterey, San Diego, San Francisco, Hudson NY, Catskills NY, Charlotte NC, Chillicothe OH, Oklahoma City OK, and Waco TX. Clear Channel often arranges for third parties, shell corporations, or related entities to buy radio and television stations in markets in which Clear Channel has already reached the ownership caps or been faced with public opposition or regulatory scrutiny. Clear Channel allegedly has arranged to officially “buy” these stations when, and if, the FCC lifts those caps.
I believe you should fully investigate these “warehousing” and “parking” allegations, and if true, should prosecute any violations of law. These acts may be illegal in and of themselves, and are likely to exacerbate the negative effects, outlined above, that consolidation has had on recording artists, copyright owners, advertisers, and consumers. It is also apparent that any investigation of possible antitrust violations by Clear Channel must consider the existence of “warehousing” or “parking” arrangements.
I would appreciate the favor of a reply at your earliest convenience concerning your agencies’ plans on this matter.
HOWARD L. BERMAN
Member of Congress