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Radio Free Clear Channel

It's official: even Clear Channel is sick of Clear Channel. The company has set up a fake pirate radio station [taken down, 5/26/05] in Akron, Ohio, which it's using to hurl insults at other Clear Channel stations. For about a week, Radio Free Ohio has feigned overthrowing Ohio's media monopoly by bleeding its broadcasts into other Clear Channel stations. Sayeth the website:

Radio in Ohio sucks. We know, We've listened.

Radio has changed. Gone are the days of big name personalities who weren’t afraid to play what they wanted. Gone are the days when we could hear a newsman deliver the news about what was happening in my town without follow-ups on runaway brides or stories about a Game Show host bedding a contestant.

Most importantly, gone are the days of multiple viewpoints and opinions. Instead we get corporate mandated opinions from talking heads. Corporate controlled music playlists, and so on.

Except for the line about "big name personalities" (I mean, who are they supposed to be pining for? Dick Clark? Alan Freed?) it's not bad, huh?

The station was outed by someone at WOXY, who looked up the Radio Free domain name and saw that it was owned by Clear Channel in San Antonio.

I supposed this isn't all that surprising coming from the company that pioneered the art of making generic, nationally produced newscasts sound as if they're local. Still, it's hard to believe that upper management would have their heads so far up their asses as to think this is a good idea. Chances are they plan on using this "guerilla" marketing to convert one of their stations to a new "alternative" or liberal talk format, but all it's really going to do is piss people off.

Anyway, I think of all this as good news: Clear Channel is so desperate to defend its turf that it'll even try joining the chorus of critics.

(Thanks, Sarah Riegel!)

Update: The RadioFreeOhio website is now just radio silence; nothing but a launch date and a promise of "revolution." But we've posted some text from the site here.

Update 5/30/05: Clear Channel acknowledges stunt. See this followup post.

Posted by carrie on 05/25/2005 | Permalink


bash-2.05b$ dnsqr a
51 bytes, 1+1+0+0 records, response, noerror
query: 1
answer: 86400 A
bash-2.05b$ whois

OrgName: Clear Channel Communications
OrgID: CCC-111
Address: Clear Channel Worldwide
Address: 20880 Stone Oak Parkway
City: San Antonio
StateProv: TX
PostalCode: 78258
Country: US

NetRange: -
NetName: NSNS
NetHandle: NET-207-230-128-0-1
Parent: NET-207-0-0-0-0
NetType: Direct Allocation
RegDate: 1996-11-19
Updated: 2005-03-31

OrgTechHandle: MOORE7-ARIN
OrgTechName: Moore, Rick
OrgTechPhone: +1-210-253-5000

# ARIN WHOIS database, last updated 2005-05-25 19:10
# Enter ? for additional hints on searching ARIN's WHOIS database.

Posted by: xx | May 26, 2005 6:30:00 AM

It won't piss people off. Once they begin regular broadcasts nobody will remember.

Posted by: aabbaabb | May 26, 2005 8:57:34 AM

Ladies and gentlemen, that is what we in the broadcast industry call a "radio stunt".

Posted by: ThatGuy | May 26, 2005 9:22:04 AM

It's ironic that fans of WOXY, a truly independent and innovative station was the first to discover that ClearChannel was trying to be hip and cool...

Posted by: Bryan-Mitchell Young | May 26, 2005 10:11:44 AM

They had a message board up. First people were calling them commies, then when they got outed people were posting angry responses. Sometime this morning (between 7:30 and 10:30 EST) they pulled the plug on the message board--I'm getting a 404.

Posted by: mj | May 26, 2005 10:33:39 AM

Aha!!! Another radio clone trying to bring people to the darkside.

Posted by: lothlorien | May 26, 2005 10:37:24 AM

Check your facts more carefully. WNIR is not a Clear Channel radio station. We're independently owned and proud of it, and we have nothing to do with the Radio Free Ohio fiasco.

Posted by: wnir | May 26, 2005 11:35:27 AM

lol, the website is changed now, it says nothing but wait til the 31st, anyone have it cached or archived? and google and yahoo cache dont have it

Posted by: comsn d | May 26, 2005 11:44:37 AM

Wait. When folks are claiming that this is "bleeding" into other broadcasts, do they mean that WNIR's signal has actually been interfered with by this operation? Or is it that this operation bought time on WNIR, (and was presumably given it by Clear Channel stations in the area).?

Posted by: MB | May 26, 2005 12:05:10 PM

Well if I WAS going to make a truly pirate radio station, I wouldn't use my real identity in the DNS information of its website. It might even be a cute prank to enter the ownership details of the company I was lampooning...

Now FCC frequency license records, that would be a better indicator of who is what.


Posted by: PHiZ | May 26, 2005 1:21:57 PM

Everytime I have to drive past their offices (my in laws live in Stone Oak) I contemplate how awful life was before satellite radio. Then I realise radio isn't that great. Then I cry on the inside. Awhile ago San Antonio had hearings against clear channel's business here... I don't know what became of those.. What was i saying?

Posted by: MeltMan | May 26, 2005 2:32:27 PM

I live in Ohio, and the "big name personalit[y]" I miss is Billy Ray Vulgar. Not that any of you know who he was, or care. But I miss him. Oh, yeah, Clear Channel sucks. I'm not being sarcastic.

Posted by: mammon | May 26, 2005 4:33:08 PM

Not to be pimping for WOXY, but over in the thread I linked to before they found that the message board is still up, you just can't get to it from the main page. You can still post though. Some of us are having fun taunting them and seeing how long it will be before they delete those posts too.

Posted by: Bryan-Mitchell Young | May 26, 2005 6:31:28 PM

Pimp away, BMY! The sleuthing at WOXY has been great.

Posted by: Charles Star | May 26, 2005 7:02:47 PM

Come now, my little anarchists. This sort of thing goes on all the time. It's not even a new tactic on the airwaves. They've been doing this in Houston and other markets, having their top 40 station trash-talk their Alternative station and vice-versa. It's a practice as old as corporate convergence itself. Most people honestly never catch on.

Maybe it's news that CC blew it by registering the domain in their own name, but they'll learn. They'll create a wholly-owned subsidiary with a grassroots-sounding name to do this sort of thing from now on. Then only the people with enough snap to look into the backgrounds of the companies will ever know -- and only then because they're probably investing.

Oh, and as for faking the DNS registration -- that'd have to be a thorough hack. The NS records point inside the Clear Channel domain, so even if all the contact info is bogus, Clear Channel's own DNS servers are authoritative for this. Still think it's an outside job?

Meanwhile, look who's generating the publicity on behalf of Clear Channel.


Posted by: johnnyb | May 26, 2005 7:57:47 PM

Meanwhile, look who's generating the publicity on behalf of Clear Channel.

oh, yeah, Clear Channel is just loving the publicity; that's why they took the website down IMMEDIATELY.

Give me a break!

Posted by: Carrie McLaren | May 26, 2005 9:44:58 PM

Poor Radio Free Ohio. Y'all should quit pickin' on the poor fellows. In fact, I'll even give 'em some of my hard-earned cash so that they can continue the good fight:

Posted by: Greyscribe | May 26, 2005 9:49:04 PM

Most, if not all, of the stations insulted by that site are not Clear Channel owned.

Posted by: Matt | May 27, 2005 6:53:54 AM

They're bright enough to leave "Clear Channel Worldwide" on their Error page:

Posted by: James | May 27, 2005 8:26:06 PM

clear channel needs publicity like coca-cola and mcdonalds need publicity.

Posted by: andrew | May 27, 2005 9:14:02 PM

only station i listen to is infinaty broadcasting....but to hell with clear channel.... anyways couldnt they kinda be called a monopoly (which is illegal for those who dont kno)?

Posted by: greg | May 28, 2005 4:18:56 PM

I e-mailed the clear channel tech guy listed in the dns info and he e-mailed me back telling me to go to the clear channel website. e-mail him back again saying well radio free ohio isn't listed as a clear channel channel on that site what is the connection with clear channel. he hasn't responded to that. e-mailed the radio free dudes and they never returned the e-mail. the first thing that occured to me about the station was that this was some kids setting up a pirate station and then using clear channel's specs for their dns entry to hide themselves. however all evidence points to the contrary.


Posted by: andrew | May 29, 2005 11:54:28 AM

Radio sucks. Music sucks. Here in the DC market DC101 is on the verge of becoming a classic rock station; they've played House of Pain (Jump Around) at least 3x a day during the afternoons lately. Not to mention the inmitable Pearl Jam (why won't they die? Who does Eddie Vedder have pix of to blackmail?).

The reason for this is simple: there's no new music being produced that anyone will listen to (but what about mash-ups? Hah.)

The interesting thing with CC in this instance is the notion of the "pirate" station "bleeding" onto other stations. A CLEAR AND SERIOUS FCC VIOLATION. Their license can and will be pulled immediately if any evidence exists as to this. Anyone have a tape of these "pirates". Why not post a .wav file on some blogs, file a complaint with the FCC for frequency infringement, and finally put a rock in the eye of this 10-headed CC monster?

The bigger they are, the harder they fall....

Posted by: Recovering Music Listener | May 30, 2005 11:24:56 AM

Here's an idea--turn off the radio, get yourself an instrument, pick up a pen, and make your own music. Let's make art and music an activity again instead of a commodity that we are dependent on others to supply to us. It will be more meaningful to you because it's your personal expression. Then get together with your friends and show them what you did, and hear and see what they did.

We don't need this pre-fab junk which is just a platform for advertisers anyway. We need to express ourselves. Then all these creeps will have no advertising revenue, and their huge empire will collapse. Anything not based on quality collapses eventually.

Posted by: SH | May 30, 2005 12:13:05 PM

This is kind of like McDonalds opening up a health food restaurant and imploring people not to poison themselves on the crap at those golden-arched fast-food joints.

Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Mark | May 31, 2005 5:49:51 AM

For the Activists:

Also, to your list of people to complain to, please add Robert Levine of the New York Times, who reported the story yesterday. Actually, add his editor, who's job it is to pitch stories and hype them up so they get space and don't end up running on a HOLIDAY.

Let Levine and his editor know that they did a shoddy job of reporting what could have led to a discussion of important issues (such as Low Power FM, lack of local voices, the fact that CC could just pop up another station, but a real local broadcaster would have much more difficulty), that you are complaining to OTHER people, and that this "prank" as he called it, has not been laughed off by everyone. (From a journalist, this is how to make it 'newsworthy.')

You have to send these things soon, though. A newsroom has no memory until it's necessary.

Posted by: Jennifer | May 31, 2005 5:48:24 PM

I'm in the delivery business in Austin TX, so I spend a lot of hours driving around while listening to the radio.

So, last fall I noticed the dramatic format change on three FM stations I surf among on a daily basis. Overnight all three changed: 102.3 and 105.9 (Clear Channel) and 103.5 (Sinclair Broadcasting). Out went the "oldies" format that even went back to the 1950s when Rock n' Roll began, to be replaced with what all three stations started promoting as "old songs mixed with contemporary ones."

Hmmm, this should be interesting, I thought.

Then, I noticed something strange. All three statiions, as an example of contemporary R/R music started promoting ?Los Lonely Boys? ?"How far is Heaven?" (not certain if I've got this right, but you probably know the song). Pretty good song. No problem, right?

But then I began to wonder about all the Christian Rock songs that started showing up, especially on Clear Channel's FM 102.3.

Oh, I get it. Under the old format of "oldies," the Religious Reich couldn't get their religious fundamentalist rock played over the publicly-owned airwaves, they dumped the old format.

But I think the plot even goes deeper. Certain classic R/R songs from the past use religious terms in their lyrics. For example, the Doobie Brothers and "Jesus is just alright with me." Great song. But the DB's had other great songs, too. So why does this seem to be the only DB song that Clear Channel plays?

You do see where this is leading, don't you? Lowery Mays (Clear Channel) and Bob Sinclair (Sinclair Broadcasting) put their heads together, I believe, and decided to use their network of radio stations to Proselytize over the airwaves. Christian Rock is essentially a niche market, but da boys at CC and SB wanted to share their right-wing faith with everyone.

I noticed what they are doing, and I'm not at all interested in being proselytized by some religious nuts, especially two guys who pulled a "sneaky" on everyone. Even though they don't play continuous contemporary Christian Rock, I now find myself carefully listening to the lyrics of any song I've never heard before...then I change the radio channel if I start hearing certain religious fundamentalist lyrics.

However, I think it is time I looked into XM Radio or Sirius Satellite. This way I can listen to R/R hits without having to wonder if that Christian Rock crap is intermixed. Hopefully.

And the funny thing is, I'm a Christian, but not one of May's or Sinclair's types of Christians. Hey, I'm liberal and a child of the 60s.

Posted by: The Oracle | Jun 1, 2005 4:27:36 AM

In the Orlando area CC took a very successful 60s/70s channel and switched it with no warning to Latino dance music. Go figure that one. I can't imagine their ratings are that great. Maybe they needed to get a Hispanic channel in place for the 2006 election cycle so they could broadcast pro-Repub stuff?

Posted by: Ritabert | Jun 1, 2005 8:26:36 AM

For anybody who takes all this stuff seriously: Get a life!

Posted by: Neil | Jun 2, 2005 1:23:43 PM

Love music country the gretested

Posted by: David Stevenson | Jun 3, 2005 6:16:06 AM

Why not take it seriously?

Many of the things being discussed happen to deal with the fact that CC is taking the capitalist system and raming it up our... so i cant see how not taking a selfserving prank to promote yourself to eliminate other grassroots radio stations, thereby allowing a corporate monopoly to exsist, is unimportant. And you are obviously taking it seriously to take the time to comment/read/ whatever.

Posted by: alan | Jun 4, 2005 6:31:51 PM

"In the Orlando area CC took a very successful 60s/70s channel and switched it with no warning to Latino dance music. Go figure that one. I can't imagine their ratings are that great. Maybe they needed to get a Hispanic channel in place for the 2006 election cycle so they could broadcast pro-Repub stuff?"

dude, it's fucking florida. I lived in Orlando for 7 years. The latin ratio is huge. of course their going to do this. it's money.



Posted by: andrew | Jun 7, 2005 12:07:06 PM

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