When even mainstream media outlets like the N.Y. times are telling you why your radio sucks you n=know the music industry is in real trouble.
When Alec Foege, a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Spin and Playboy, set out to write the definitive history of a company that possesses more radio stations than any other, he decided to give it the benefit of the doubt.
“I was not out to do a hatchet job,” he writes in the preface to “Right of the Dial,” “but rather to get to the bottom of a company that I suspected had gotten a raw deal as its bad publicity had snowballed.”
The reader need wait only three paragraphs before Foege renders his final verdict: “Having spent a lot of time talking to some of the company’s most prominent critics, as well as some of its most devout supporters, I have concluded that Clear Channel is indeed to blame for much of what it has been accused of.”
While unable to refute the conventional rap against Clear Channel — he finds it responsible for a “McDonald’s approach to radio programming” that makes one city’s offerings largely indistinguishable from another’s — Foege nonetheless succeeds in telling the story of how all this came to pass. The reader is guided from the company’s dusty beginnings in Texas in 1972 to its subsequent acquisition of the company that employed Rush Limbaugh (it still syndicates him on about 600 stations), and from its binge buying, as federal media ownership rules were relaxed in the late 1990s, to the high-tech battering it began receiving from the iPod in the new century.