American mass media corporation
|Formerly||CC Media Holdings, Inc.
(iHeartMedia, Inc. holding company)
|NASDAQ: IHRT (Class A Common Stock)
OTC Pink: IHRTB (Class B Common Stock)
OTC Pink: IHETW (Warrants)
|Industry||Radio broadcasting, digital media|
|Founded||19721972) (iHeartCommunications, Inc. subsidiary)
2008 (2008) (iHeartMedia, Inc. holding company)
|Key people||Bob Pittman
|Revenue||US$ 3.6 billion (2019)|
|US$ 506.7 million (2019)|
|US$ 11.3 billion (2019)|
|Total assets||US$ 11 billion (2019) |
|Total equity||US$ 2.9 billion (2019)|
|Owners||Thomas H. Lee Partners|
|Number of employees||18,700 (2017)|
|Divisions||iHeartMedia (sans “Inc.” suffix; formerly
Clear Channel Media and Entertainment,
Clear Channel Radio, et al.)
|Subsidiaries||Broader Media, LLC
iHeartMedia and Entertainment, Inc.
iHeartMedia Capital I, LLC
iHeartMedia, Inc., formerly CC Media Holdings, Inc., is an American mass media corporation headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. It is the holding company of iHeartCommunications, Inc. (formerly Clear Channel Communications, Inc.), a company founded by Lowry Mays and B. J. “Red” McCombs in 1972, and later taken private by Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners through a leveraged buyout in 2008. As a result of this buyout, Clear Channel Communications, Inc. began to operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of CC Media Holdings, Inc. On September 16, 2014, CC Media Holdings, Inc. was rebranded iHeartMedia, Inc., and Clear Channel Communications, Inc., became iHeartCommunications, Inc.
iHeartMedia, Inc. specializes in radio broadcasting through division iHeartMedia (sans “Inc.” suffix; formerly Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, Clear Channel Radio, et al.) and subsidiary iHeartMedia and Entertainment, Inc. (formerly Clear Channel Broadcasting, Inc.); the company owns more than 850 full-power AM and FM radio stations in the U.S., making it the country’s largest owner of radio stations. The company has also been involved in internet radio and podcasting via the digital platform iHeartRadio (from which the company derives its current name).
In the past, the company was also involved in live events and out-of-home advertising. The company spun off these businesses in 2005 and 2019 respectively, as the present-day Live Nation Entertainment and Clear Channel Outdoor.
Clear Channel Communications purchased its first FM station in San Antonio in 1972. The company purchased the second “clear channel” AM station WOAI in 1975. In 1976, the company purchased its first stations outside of San Antonio. KXXO now KAKC and KMOD-FM in Tulsa were acquired under the name “San Antonio Broadcasting” (same as KEEZ). Stations were also added in Port Arthur, Texas (KPAC-AM-FM from Port Arthur College) and El Paso, Texas (KELP AM (now KQBU AM) from John Walton Jr.). In 1992, the U.S. Congress relaxed radio ownership rules slightly, allowing the company to acquire more than 2 stations per market. By 1995, Clear Channel owned 43 radio stations and 16 television stations. When the Telecommunications Act of 1996 became law, the act deregulated media ownership, allowing a company to own more stations than previously allowed. Clear Channel went on a subsequent buying spree, purchasing more than 70 other media companies and individual stations.
In a few cases, following purchase of a competitor, Clear Channel was forced to divest some of its stations, as it was above the legal thresholds in some cities. In 2005, the courts ruled that Clear Channel must also divest itself of some “border blaster” radio stations in international border cities, such as the alternative rock radio station XETRA-FM (“91X”) in Tijuana, Baja California/San Diego.
In 1998 it made its first move outside of the United States when it acquired the leading UK outdoor advertising company More Group plc, which was led by Roger Parry; Clear Channel went on to buy many other outdoor advertising, radio broadcasting, and live events companies around the world, which were then re-branded Clear Channel International. These included a 51% stake in Clear Media Ltd. in China.
In 1999, the company acquired Jacor Communications, a radio corporation based in Cincinnati. The company also made an investment in the new satellite radio service XM Satellite Radio, giving it the rights to program a selection of stations on the service (which would be drawn from some of its stations and syndicated output).
R. Steven Hicks and Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst began Capstar Broadcasting in 1996, and a year later had become the largest owner of radio stations in the country, with 243 stations in total. In August 1997, Capstar and Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst announced plans to acquire SFX Broadcasting, with the resulting company owning 314 stations in 79 markets and ranking as the third-largest radio group by income. A year later, Chancellor Media Corporation and Capstar Broadcasting Corporation announced a merger that would result in Chancellor Media owning 463 stations in 105 markets when the deal was completed in second quarter 1999. Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst owned 59 percent of Capstar, with 355 stations in 83 markets, and was the largest single owner of Chancellor (which had 108 stations in 22 markets), with 15 percent of the stock. Chancellor Media later became AMFM Inc., which was acquired by Clear Channel in a deal announced October 3, 1999, and valued at $17.4 billion. The resulting company would own 830 radio stations, 19 television stations, and over 425,000 outdoor displays in 32 countries.
In 2000, Clear Channel acquired Robert F. X. Sillerman‘s SFX Entertainment, a concert promoter that had focused on consolidation of regional promoters under a national operation. In 2005, Clear Channel spun off its entertainment and live events business as Live Nation.
On November 16, 2006, Clear Channel announced plans to go private, being bought out by two private-equity firms, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital Partners for $26.7 billion including $8 billion in debt. This was just under a 10 percent premium above its closing price of $35.36 a share on November 16 (the deal values Clear Channel at $37.60 per share). In a separate transaction also announced on November 16, 2006, Clear Channel said it would seek buyers for all of its television stations and 539 of its smaller radio stations, because the private-equity buyers were not interested in owning television or small-market radio. Over a hundred stations were assigned to Aloha Station Trust, LLC upon the consummation of the merger. The television stations were sold to Newport Television, a broadcaster owned by Providence Equity Partners, on April 23, 2007.
Due to the credit market crunch of 2007, Clear Channel had difficulty selling some of its radio stations. Clear Channel’s attempt to sell off over 100 stations to GoodRadio.TV, LLC was rejected by the equity firm backing the deal. The deal then shifted to Frequency License LLC, but took longer to resolve itself as the two parties were engaged in lawsuits. On top of that, the sale of Clear Channel’s television portfolio to Newport Television had also turned uncertain, as Providence considered other options, although this transaction was ultimately completed.
On December 4, 2007, Clear Channel announced that they had extended the termination date of the buyout from December 12, 2007, to June 12, 2008. On July 24, 2008, Clear Channel held a special shareholder meeting, during which the majority of shareholders accepted a revised $36-per-share offer from Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners. Shareholders received either $36 in cash, or one share of CC Media Class A common stock for each share of Clear Channel common stock held. The company announced that it would move to more centralized programming and lay off 1,500 employees, or approximately 7% of its workforce, on January 20, 2009. The reasoning was bleak economic conditions and debt from its transition to a private company. By the completion of the restructuring in May 2009, a total of 2,440 positions were eliminated.
In early 2010, it was announced that the company was facing the possibility of bankruptcy due to its “crippling debt.” After 21 years, Mark Mays stepped down as President and CEO of Clear Channel on June 23, 2010. Mays remained as Chairman of the Board. On October 2, 2011, Robert W. “Bob” Pittman was named CEO of Clear Channel.
In August 2013, Clear Channel sold its minority stake in Sirius XM for $135.5 million. This also resulted in the removal of most Clear Channel-programmed stations on the service, besides simulcasts of WHTZ and KIIS-FM.
On January 6, 2014, Clear Channel announced a marketing partnership with Robert F. X. Sillerman‘s SFX Entertainment (a second incarnation of a live events company that had been sold to Clear Channel, which spun off to form Live Nation), to collaborate on electronic dance music content for its digital and terrestrial radio outlets, including a Beatport top 20 countdown show. The partnership expanded upon the company’s existing EDM-oriented outlets (such as Evolution). Staff, including John Sykes, believed that the deal (particularly the Beatport countdown show) would help provide a higher level of national exposure to current and up and coming EDM artists.
In September 2014, it was announced that the company would be renamed from Clear Channel Communications to iHeartMedia, alluding to its iHeartRadio platform to reflect the company’s growing emphasis on digital media and internet radio. The previous name “Clear Channel” came from AM broadcasting, referring to a channel (frequency) on which only one station transmits. In the U.S., clear-channel stations have exclusive rights to their frequencies throughout most of the continent at night, when AM signals travel far due to skywave. CEO Bob Pittman explained that the company had been “doing progressive stuff”, yet they were still “named after AM radio stations.”
In 2016, one of the company’s directors, Julia B. Donnelly, left the board of iHeartCommunications and was replaced by Laura A. Grattan, a director at Thomas H. Lee. Grattan was named to the board of managers of iHeartMedia Capital I, LLC, the direct parent of iHeartCommunications, as well as the board of directors of iHeartMedia, Inc., the indirect parent of iHeartCommunications.
Since 2008, iHeartMedia had struggled to pay down more than $20 billion in debt the company assumed from its leveraged buyout. Various media outlets, including Bloomberg News, Reuters, Radio Ink, and iHeartMedia’s hometown newspaper the San Antonio Express-News, claimed that either bankruptcy or a major restructuring was likely. On April 20, 2017, the company warned investors that it might not survive over the following 10 months. On November 30, 2017, it was reported that a group of creditors had rejected iHeartMedia’s latest debt restructuring proposal, instead bringing out a deal where the company might file for bankruptcy. On March 15, 2018, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and claimed that it reached an agreement to restructure $10 billion of its over $20 billion in debt.
Emergence from bankruptcy, realignments towards digital
In September 2018, iHeartMedia acquired HowStuffWorks‘ podcast network Stuff Media for $55 million. On November 19, 2018, iHeartMedia announced its intent to acquire Jelli, the provider of a programmatic advertising platform for radio stations.
In January 2019, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas approved a creditor-supported plan for iHeartMedia to exit bankruptcy, which would reduce the company’s debt from $16.1 billion to $5.75 billion. The plan included the spin-out of iHeartMedia’s 89.1% stake in its out-of-home advertising division Clear Channel Outdoor. In April 2019, the company also filed a proposed initial public offering.
iHeartMedia emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May 2019, with a new board of directors and the spin-out of Clear Channel Outdoor, but maintaining its existing leadership of CEO Bob Pittman and president Rich Bressler. Rather than pursue its IPO (which was estimated to potentially be valued at $1.1 billion), iHeartMedia instead received approval for a direct listing on the Nasdaq.
On January 14, 2020, iHeartMedia announced a major restructuring, as part of an effort to “modernize our company to take advantage of the significant investments we have made in new technology and aligning our operating structure to match the technology-powered businesses we are now in.” This included the restructuring of its Markets Group into three divisions (the “Regions” division for its largest markets, the “Metropolitan” division for other major cities, and the “Communities” division for smaller markets) and adding a “multi-market partnerships” unit, and the announced development of “centers of excellence” that would use its technology investments to “provide a better experience for listeners and business partners and a more efficient process for all of its employees”. The restructuring was accompanied by a major round of layoffs and displacements, with a large number of staff members and on-air personalities being affected.
iHeartMedia has purchased interest in, or outright acquired, companies in a number of media or advertising related industries. This is not an exhaustive list.
With 855 stations, iHeartMedia is the largest radio station group owner in the United States, both by number of stations and by revenue. The 855 stations reach more than 110 million listeners every week, and 245 million every month. According to BIA Financial Network, iHeartMedia recorded more than $3.5 billion in revenues as of 2005[update], $1 billion more than the number-two group owner, CBS Radio.
In June 2012, the company announced that it would become the first U.S. radio group to partner with record labels to pay performance royalties directly to labels and musicians (in addition to songwriters and producers). The royalties are paid via revenue sharing for advertising across platforms (including digital), rather than a flat payment each time a song is played. Big Machine Label Group was announced as the first partner in this scheme. Pittman stated that the arrangement would “[let] labels and artists participate in the revenue of broadcast radio immediately and in digital radio as it builds.”
iHeartMedia has purchased stations from or acquired the following radio companies:
Clear Channel Outdoor (CCO) is an advertising company that was previously owned by iHeartMedia. Under the Clear Channel umbrella, Clear Channel Outdoor was built from the acquisition of Eller Media, Universal Outdoor, and More Group Plc, giving iHeartMedia outdoor advertising space in 25 countries, while CCO also has a stake in Jolly Pubblicita S.p.A. of Italy. Other units of CCO include:
In May 2019, it was spun out from iHeartMedia as part of its exit from bankruptcy.
The first television station iHeartMedia purchased as Clear Channel was WPMI in Mobile, Alabama in 1988. It owned more than 40 additional stations, a few of which are independent (non-network affiliates). In 2007, the company entered into an agreement to sell all its television stations to Providence Equity Partners for $1.2 billion, a deal that eventually closed in March 2008. All former Clear Channel television stations were owned by Newport Television, while the other six were flipped to other buyers by Newport. In 2012 to mid-2013, Newport sold off all of its holdings to several other television groups, including News-Press & Gazette Company, Cox Media Group, Nexstar Media Group, and Sinclair Broadcast Group.
iHeartMedia owns Mediabase, which provide music charts based on songs and tracks receiving the most spins played on radio stations in the United States and Canada. A majority of stations that report to Mediabase are iHeartMedia outlets but other companies also report to the Mediabase charts. In addition, countdown shows produced by Premiere will utilize Mediabase charts for the basis of their programs.
News and information
- 24/7 News Source
- Operates iHeartRadio News Network and local news networks in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida.
- Premiere Networks
- Acquired and later sold the Agri Broadcast Network (ABN), a farm programming provider in Ohio.
- Publishes Inside Radio magazine
- Total Traffic & Weather Network reports: on-road and traffic conditions across the United States, and in Mexico City, Mexico. These are used by many GPS navigation systems. Total Traffic & Weather also produce and distributes NBC News Radio
- Fan Radio Network: a sports radio network that serves Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota. The flagship station is KFXN-FM in Minneapolis, MN.
- Your Smooth Jazz: 24-hour smooth jazz network provided under the company’s “Broadcast Architecture” division.
- Owns part of radio groups in New Zealand, Mexico, Norway, and Australia.
- Owns outdoor advertising companies in Brazil, Chile, Finland, France, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and Mauritius.
- Owns L & C Outdoor Comunicacao Visual Ltda., of Brazil
- United Kingdom
Bicycle rental systems
Operates urban bicycle sharing systems in several European cities:
Vertical Real Estate
In 2003, Clear Channel created the Vertical Real Estate division and hired Scott Quitadamo to promote its tower portfolio. iHeartMedia owns and operates approximately 1,500 broadcast transmission towers across the U.S., many of which are available for co-location by third parties such as cellular and PCS companies, wireless internet, fixed wireless, and other broadcasters.
iHeartMedia operates the country’s largest syndication service, Premiere Networks. In addition, iHeartMedia syndicates a number of its homegrown talk and music shows without the aid of Premiere. While Premiere actively sells its shows to stations, the non-Premiere syndicated shows are often used as a cost-cutting measure and do not have a large sales staff. Those shows also do not carry network-wide advertising (unless distributed by a third party), and allow the affiliates to keep all local spots, which increases their appeal. These networks carry many program hosts of various political ideologies and distribute a variety of programs to both iHeartMedia-owned and non-iHeartMedia-owned stations.
In addition to its own syndication network, iHeartMedia offers studio space and other services to the WestStar TalkRadio Network, which is based at iHeartMedia’s studios in Phoenix, Arizona. As a result, many WestStar programs are heard on iHeartMedia stations.
Not all programming heard on iHeartMedia’s radio stations are produced in house; however, most of iHeartMedia’s stations share many similarities to each other in branding and programming.
Format Lab and HD2 Formats
The Format Lab was a radio programming think tank conceived, built and managed by Michael Albl for Clear Channel (now known as iHeartMedia) that produced 84 formats for use on AM/FM/HD/XM/Stream/Mobile. The formats ranged from mainstream formats, music genre niches, lifestyles to the highly experimental. These formats were heard on most of Clear Channel’s HD Radio subchannels, on SiriusXM, Sprint MSpot and used as the original music streaming service for Clear Channel Online Music and Radio (CCOMR). In 2009, the Format Lab split into two programming services (1) Terrestrial Radio known as Premium Choice and (2) iHeartRadio online streaming.
iHeartRadio is a free broadcast, podcast and streaming radio platform. It is also the national umbrella brand for iHeartMedia’s radio network aggregating its over 850 local iHeartMedia radio stations across the United States, as well as hundreds of other stations from various other media.
iHeartMedia Alternative Stations usually are branded as “Radio” (such as Radio 104.5 (WRFF) in Philadelphia or Channel 93.3 (KTCL) in Denver), or “ALT” (Alt 98.7 (KYSR) in Los Angeles). Others include: The Edge, The Buzz, The Project, Star, or X. Their flagship Premium Choice Alternative Station is The Alternative Project broadcasting on WAXQ-FM 104.3 HD-2 in New York City. The Woody Show, which originates from KYSR, serves as the anchor morning show for the iHeartMedia Alternative outlets.
Urban, urban AC and rhythmic stations
Stations that carry programming catering to black Americans are a big part of many iHeartMedia clusters, particularly Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit. In many clusters iHeartMedia has two or more such stations. About half the Urban stations focus on Rap and Hip Hop along with younger rhythm and blues sounds. The other half blend some younger rhythm and blues along with some Soul from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s along with some current product. Some of the Hip Hop-based Urban stations report as Rhythmic Top 40 stations rather than Urban stations because these stations also have some appeal to white and Hispanic listeners. In a cluster with multiple urban stations owned by iHeartMedia, one is focused on Rap while the other is focused on Soul. Examples include Philadelphia, with WUSL‘s focus on hip hop while WDAS-FM focuses on Soul (in addition, the company also owns a rhythmic AC station in that area, which is WISX 106.1), and Chicago, where WGCI-FM focuses on rap while WVAZ is focused on Soul. iHeartMedia urban and urban AC stations are branded as “Real” (KRRL Los Angeles), “Beat” (KQBT/Houston, WBTP Tampa) or “Power” (WWPR New York City, WUSL Philadelphia and WHEN Syracuse). In San Francisco, iHeartMedia owned more urban-related stations such as Rhythmic Top 40 KYLD, urban oldies KISQ, and urban contemporary KMEL in that area (KYLD shifted to Top 40/CHR in 2015, KISQ flipped to AC in 2016), and the same happened in Detroit, where the company also owns urban AC WMXD, urban contemporary WJLB and former rhythmic AC WDTW-FM (now WLLZ). iHeart also have Urban outlets with heritage and familiarity based on the markets they serve, like WHRK and WDIA in Memphis, and WKKV in Milwaukee.
Another growing format, Classic Hip-Hop/Throwback/Old School (consisting of R&B/Hip-Hop, Rap, and Rhythmic songs from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s), can be heard full-time on iHeartRadio, as well as KATZ-FM/St. Louis and KUBT-HD2 in Honolulu. Previously, this format was originated as Rhythmic Oldies, which was launched at KCMG/Los Angeles and later spread to more markets before the former Clear Channel flipped several stations out of the format by the mid-2000s.
For the Rhythmic Top 40 format, similar brandings include “The Beat” (KUBT/Honolulu and WBTT/Ft. Myers), Power 102/El Paso, 104.5 Kiss FM/Beaumont, Texas, “Jam’n” (KXJM/Portland Oregon, KSSX/San Diego, and WJMN/Boston; a similar “Jammin'” is used at WSTV/Roanoke & WJJX/Lynchburg). A “B” has been used at B95/Fresno since the 1980s. Others Rhythmics, such as KUBE/Seattle, KDON-FM/Salinas-Monterey and KGGI/Riverside-San Bernardino, simply use the call letters and/or frequency. Most of these stations target a multicultural audience and play Rhythmic Pop, R&B/Hip-Hop, and Dance tracks.
For rhythmic AC stations, they used to have the “Party” branding (particularly during the time when most used Wake Up with Whoopi out of WKTU as their morning show), but the two “Party” stations in Denver (KPTT) and Las Vegas (KYMT, the former KPLV) have since exited the rhythmic AC format. KPTT and KPLV moved to top 40, but continue to use the “Party” branding (KPLV is currently Variety Hits). All iHeartMedia rhythmic AC stations are now differently branded per station, although one of the outlets, WMOV-FM/Norfolk, uses the “Movin’” moniker which is trademarked under another company (that station has since shifted to Rhythmic Top 40). The Breakfast Club Morning Show out of WWPR-FM in New York and “Big Boy’s Neighborhood” out of KRRL in Los Angeles are iHeartMedia’s syndicated urban morning shows.
As noted earlier, iHeartMedia has the Smooth Jazz Network (aka Your Smooth Jazz), which is programmed by Broadcast Architecture. Unless otherwise noted, all Smooth Jazz Network stations will carry the following schedule: Kenny G and Sandy Kovach in morning drive time, Miranda Wilson in midday, Allen Kepler in afternoon drive time, and Maria Lopez in evenings, with no disc jockeys overnight. Weekend programming consists of the Smooth Jazz Top 20 with Allen Kepler, as well as the Dave Koz Radio Show.
Dance and EDM
Although they have no full-powered stations programming a Dance or EDM (Electronic Dance Music) format, iHeartMedia has FM translators and HD2 platforms broadcasting the EDM-intensive Evolution platform (KZZP/Phoenix is the flagship station, serving as a reporter on Billboard’s Dance/Mix Show Airplay panel), while the LGBT community is served by the more broader-based Pride Radio (with WFLZ/Tampa serving as the flagship station as well as a Dance/Mix Show Airplay reporter). However, iHeartMedia’s Top 40/CHR and Rhythmic Top 40 outlets incorporate a majority of Dance songs onto its playlist and set aside airtime blocks for mix shows. A weekly countdown program, America’s Dance 30, airs on Evolution and selected iHeart Top 40 and Rhythmic stations.
News talk stations
News talk stations owned by iHeartMedia usually have a standard slate of hosts. The morning show is usually local, with other timeslots filled by local and syndicated hosts. Programs that appear on many iHeartMedia talk stations include the Glenn Beck Radio Program (Beck having gotten his talk show start at iHeartMedia-owned WFLA in Tampa, which serves as its home station), The Rush Limbaugh Show (out of WJNO in West Palm Beach and WOR in New York), The Sean Hannity Show (out of WOR in New York), The Buck Sexton Show and Coast to Coast AM with George Noory, all of which are affiliated with Premiere Networks in some fashion. The Mark Levin Show (out of WABC in New York and WMAL-FM in Washington, D.C.) and The Dave Ramsey Show (out of WLAC in Nashville) are non-Premiere shows who air on many (if not most) iHeartMedia stations, as did The Savage Nation prior to its ending in September 2012, whose home station at the time was KSTE in Sacramento. Limbaugh is almost universally carried on iHeartMedia stations in markets where the company has a news talk station, including recently New York City: WOR was acquired in 2013 by Clear Channel and began carrying Limbaugh’s program in 2014 following a long relationship with now-Red Apple Media-owned WABC. In markets where iHeartMedia-owned news talk stations have not been profitable (such as Boston and Atlanta), iHeartMedia has chosen to sell shows such as Limbaugh and Coast to Coast AM to their rivals and change the stations to other formats.
While most of iHeartMedia’s news/talk stations carry some combination of Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity and Noory (of Coast to Coast AM), this is not always the case. Many stations (particularly in the larger markets) like KFI, KFYI, KOA, WZZR and WLW broadcast a lineup with significant local programming.
Liberal talk radio is heard on a few of iHeartMedia’s stations, primarily secondary to its main news talk stations, and usually feature at least one local host with Westwood One programming; Air America Radio also aired on these stations. iHeartMedia has shown a tendency to drop liberal talk affiliations due to lack of ratings or advertiser support and replace it with sports talk or other formats (see, for instance, WCKY, WARF, KLSD, WXKS, and WINZ); in one case this had caused a protest when iHeartMedia (then Clear Channel) wanted to change WXXM in Madison, Wisconsin to a sports format. WXXM was eventually allowed to keep its liberal format, though they eventually retired it in November 2016 due to a general lack of syndicated programming for that format.
iHeartMedia has been active in the national trend of simulcasting its AM news/talk stations on full-power FM stations, hoping to preserve their long-term viability while AM radio declines. Examples include San Diego, California, on KUSS 95.7 (which became KOGO-FM after simulcasting KOGO (AM), replacing country music), Sacramento, California on KGBY 92.5 (which became KFBK-FM after simulcasting KFBK, replacing hot adult contemporary), in Tucson, Arizona, on KTZR-FM (which became KNST-FM after simulcasting KNST, replacing Spanish top 40), in Schenectady, New York (WGY-FM/103.1, simulcasting WGY/810, replacing rock WHRL) and Syracuse, New York (WSYR-FM/106.9 simulcasting WSYR/570, displacing urban AC “Power” to WHEN/620). After failing to see any significant ratings gains from these moves, Clear Channel showed signs of abandoning this strategy when it changed KNST-FM to country music in February 2013 as KYWD.
Sports talk stations
Most sports talk stations owned by iHeartMedia are affiliated with Fox Sports Radio. Other sports talk stations are affiliated with rival ESPN Radio (in this case, WUCS in Hartford, Connecticut, which is nearby ESPN‘s headquarters in Bristol).
Most of iHeartMedia’s adult standards stations are turnkey operations, running a direct feed of a satellite format such as Westwood One‘s America’s Best Music or Music of Your Life. Most of these stations have no local jocks or Web sites. The network has few remaining stations in that category and has sold off many of them.
iHeartMedia’s adult contemporary stations are often branded as “Lite FM” (i.e. WLIT in Chicago or WLTW in New York, ) or “Sunny”, although some stations use “Magic”, “B” or something else similar as their identifiers, As of 2018, “The Breeze” has bought a new resurgence in Soft AC, targeted towards millennial listeners. Evenings are usually filled with Delilah, unless that show is already aired by another station, in which case the John Tesh Radio Show is often substituted. Automated programming is the next option for the 7PM– 12 AM timeslot. Your Weekend with Jim Brickman is a popular weekend syndicated program on iHeartMedia adult contemporary stations. Most AC stations air Christmas music from the last week of November to Christmas Day. Some AC iHeartMedia stations are almost famous for playing Christmas music as early as November 1 such as KOSY-FM in Salt Lake City before they flipped to mainstream rock or WLKO playing its first Christmas song of the season 2–3 weeks before Thanksgiving. 2/3 of iHeartMedia stations that play Adult contemporary air Christmas formats.
Hot adult contemporary stations are usually branded as “Mix”, “Star” or “MYfm” (i.e. KBIG in Los Angeles). Some Hot AC stations lean modern rock while others lean toward adult rock. Other Hot AC stations have other brandings such as “Wild 105.7 and 96.7” on WRDA in Atlanta.
Contemporary hit radio
iHeartMedia’s CHR stations share a number of common brands, including “KISS-FM” (e.g., KIIS Los Angeles, WKSC-FM Chicago, WAKS Cleveland, WFKS Melbourne, WXKS-FM Boston), “Z” (e.g., WHTZ New York, KKRZ Portland Oregon WZFT Baltimore, KSLZ St. Louis), “Wild” (e.g., WLDI West Palm Beach, KYLD San Francisco), “Power” (WWPW Atlanta, WGEX Albany, Georgia), Channel (e.g., WKQI Detroit, WHQC Charlotte, KHTS-FM San Diego, WCHD Dayton-Springfield), or “Hot” (e.g., WIHT in Washington, D.C., WWHT in Syracuse, NY). Other brands, less commonly used, includes “Radio Now” (previously used at WNRW Louisville, now rebranded as “98.9 Kiss FM”), “Q” (WIOQ Philadelphia-102.1 FM-Q102, WQGA Waycross-Brunswick, Georgia-103.3 FM-103Q), “B” (WAEB-FM B 104 Allentown-Reading PA 104.1 FM), “FM” (WLAN-FM FM 97 96.9 FM Lancaster-Reading), “V” (WVRT& WVRZ V-97 Williamsport-Lock Haven, Pennsylvania), “Max” (WHCY Max 106.3 Sussex), “K.C.” (WKCI-FM KC 101, 101.3 FM, Hamden-New Haven, Connecticut/Long Island, New York) and “X” (WJMX-FM 103X, 103.3 FM Cheraw-Florence, South Carolina/The Pee Dee). Still other branding can be heard, however, when a preferred format name is already in use by another station in the market.
Although a majority of these stations features a broad-based, mass appeal music presentation, several stations like WSNX/Grand Rapids and WKTU/New York City tend to lean towards Rhythmic material due to having a sister station in the same format (WKTU’s sister is WHTZ) or a lack of a Rhythmic or R&B/Hip-Hop outlet (a void which WSNX also tries to fill).
Many iHeartMedia CHR stations utilize syndicated morning shows, such as Elvis Duran and the Morning Show based out of WHTZ, New Jersey/New York’s Z100 and Johnjay & Rich based out of KZZP Phoenix, Arizona (especially in the Rocky Mountain states). Some East Coast CHR stations carry On Air with Ryan Seacrest (based out of KIIS-FM in Los Angeles) middays. On weekends, syndicated programming includes American Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest (based out of KIIS-FM and WHTZ, including the aforementioned 1970s and 1980s with Casey Kasem in the above section).
Country music stations owned by iHeartMedia have begun transitioning to “The Bull” like KSD (FM) in St. Louis and “Big” like WEBG in Chicago (which flipped to mainstream rock as WCHI-FM in 2020) as national brandings as of 2014. They almost universally carry After Midnite, the syndicated overnight program currently hosted by Cody Alan, and often carry The Bobby Bones Show based out of WSIX-FM in Nashville in the morning as well.
Oldies and classic hits
iHeartMedia’s Oldies stations consists largely of FM stations with some AM stations. iHeartMedia uses brands such as “Big” and “Kool” on many of its stations. Nearly all of the FM stations play oldies spanning from 1964 to 1975, with a 500-song active playlist split nearly half 1960s and half 1970s. The playlist also includes approximately a dozen pre 1964 tracks and around 50 songs from the late 1970s and early 1980s. These stations generally have a few local live announcers; much of the time these stations are voicetracked either locally or from another market. Most run syndicated programming on weekends, such as Dick Bartley or Mike Harvey on Saturday nights, Steve Goddard’s programs (Goddard’s Gold and/or The 70s), and recently, Casey Kasem‘s American Top 40: The 70s. A handful of iHeartMedia’s outlets have picked up syndicated weeknight fare, such as Mike Harvey, Marty Thompson or Tom Kent.
The AM oldies stations’ playlists skew somewhat older and span from 1955 to about 1975. About 60 percent of the time they play 1964 to 1969 oldies, 20 percent pre 1964 oldies, and 20 percent music from the 1970s. Some of these also run Dick Bartley or Mike Harvey on Saturday nights. Some of the AM stations also run adult standards several hours on the weekend as well as limited specialized programming focusing on the pre 1964 era. Most of the AM stations are in smaller markets.
iHeartMedia stations programming a rock format tend to play a blend of new rock and harder classic rock. Some carry Nights with Alice Cooper (out of KSLX-FM in Phoenix) in the evenings while some others aired Sixx Sense with Nikki Sixx until the show ended at the end of 2015. These stations tend to be live during the day and voicetracked at night. Some stations run Rockline with Bob Coburn and/or Little Steven’s Underground Garage as well.
While iHeartMedia classic rock stations operate under a wide variety of monikers, many are branded as “The Fox” or “The Brew“. Often, these stations will carry Bob and Tom (out of WFBQ in Indianapolis) in morning drive. In the Southern United States, John Boy and Billy (out of WRFX in Charlotte, North Carolina) is carried instead in most cases. (Both of the aforementioned shows are syndicated by Premiere.) Other shows include the Walton and Johnson Show out of KPRC in Houston and Rover’s Morning Glory out of WMMS in Cleveland. Starting with WQBW Milwaukee (now the sports formatted WRNW) and WBWR Columbus (now WXZX), several iHeartMedia stations have adopted a 1980s-centered classic rock approach called “The Brew.”
The company’s alternative rock stations use a standardized branding under the brand “Alt”.
In a few markets, iHeartMedia has an FM station carrying Hispanic programming full-time. In some markets the format is a Contemporary Tropical format while in others the format carried is more of a Mexican format. In a few markets an iHeartMedia FM station carries a rap based Spanish format known as Hurban, which blends Spanish dance music with rhythm and blues hits as well as some Hip Hop. The division is run by Spanish radio executive Alfredo Alonso, who joined the company in September 2004 as Senior Vice President of Hispanic Radio.
In a few markets, iHeartMedia has a religious station on the AM band. Some of these sell blocks of time to outside organizations and have no local shows at all except where local churches buy time. These are formatted similarly to Salem Media stations.
The other type of religious format iHeartMedia uses in a few markets is a Gospel music based format. On these stations Gospel Music appealing to black Americans airs most of the time along with some block programming sold to religious groups. These stations are often programmed as urban stations that happen to be religious.
IHeartMedia has one station in Hawaii, KDNN/Honolulu, programming a Contemporary Hawaiian Hits/Reggae format, along with an accompanying HD2 sub channel that features traditional Hawaiian music. Multicultural programming can also be heard on AM stations that iHeartMedia owns or has LMAs with. In March 2019, its Allentown, Pennsylvania outlet, WSAN, launched an all-podcast format. In November 2019, K256AS/KUCD-HD2 in Honolulu launched a variant Top 40 format with a focus on K-pop and other international pop hits.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the company became an object of persistent criticism. FCC regulations were relaxed following the Telecommunications Act of 1996, allowing companies to own far more radio stations than before. After spending about $30 billion, Clear Channel owned over 1,200 stations nationwide, including as many as eight stations in certain markets. Although “media reform” social movement organizations like Future of Music Coalition mobilized against Clear Channel, so far the company has been able to hold on to all of its stations after divesting a few following the acquisition of AMFM, although over 500 stations have since been sold or are in the process of being sold since the company announced plans to become privately held.
September 11, 2001
Following the September 11 attacks on New York and The Pentagon, radio stations circulated a list of songs that were deemed inappropriate for broadcast during the time of national mourning following the attacks. A small list was initially generated by the Clear Channel office on Thursday, September 13, 2001, though individual program directors added many of their own songs. A list containing about 150 songs was soon published on the Internet. Some critics suggested that Clear Channel’s political preferences played a part in the list. A number of songs were apparently placed on the list because they had specific words such as “plane”, “fly”, “burn”, and “falling” in their titles. Clear Channel denies that this was a list of banned songs, claiming it was a list of titles that should be played only after great thought. Also WOFX, Cincinnati, owned by Clear Channel at the time continued to play songs that were on the alleged list, even though radio headquarters was in Cincinnati at the time. Songs on the list included Tom Petty‘s “Free Fallin’“, Louis Armstrong‘s “What a Wonderful World” and the entire Rage Against the Machine discography.
Live music recordings
In 2004, Clear Channel acquired a key patent in the process of producing Instant Live recordings, in which a live performance is recorded directly from the sound engineer’s console during the show, and then rapidly burned on CD so that audience members can buy copies of the show as they are leaving the venue. This had been intended to provide additional revenue to the artist, venue, and promoter, as well as stifle the demand for unauthorized bootleg concert recordings made by audience members. However, some media critics, as well as smaller business rivals, believed that Clear Channel was using the patent (on the process of adding cues to the beginning and ending of tracks during recording, so that the concert is not burned as a single enormous track) to drive competitors out of business or force them to pay licensing fees, even if they do not use precisely the same process. The patent was transferred to Live Nation when Clear Channel Entertainment was spun off, but the patent was revoked on March 13, 2007, after it was found that this patent infringed on a prior patent granted for Telex.
Indecency zero tolerance
During the nationwide crackdown on indecent material following the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in 2004, Clear Channel launched a “self-policing” effort, and declared that there would be no “indecent” material allowed on the air. This led to the company’s dismissal of several of their own employees, including popular and high-profile hosts in a number of cities. There were protests from free-speech advocates. During the same period, Howard Stern was dropped from six Clear Channel-owned stations in Florida, California, Pennsylvania, New York and Kentucky. By mid-year, rival Viacom (through radio division Infinity Broadcasting, and the original Viacom, not the current one) brought Stern’s show back to those six markets. In June 2004, Viacom/Infinity Broadcasting Inc./One Twelve Inc. filed a $10 million lawsuit against Clear Channel for breaking of contracts and non-payment of licensing fees due to the dropping of Stern’s show. (Viacom was Howard Stern’s employer at the time, though he has since moved to Sirius XM Satellite Radio.) The following July, Clear Channel filed a countersuit of $3 million.
In the early 2000s, Clear Channel settled a lawsuit with a Denver, Colorado concert promoter, Nobody In Particular Presents (NIPP). In the lawsuit, NIPP alleged that Clear Channel halted airplay on its local stations for (NIPP) clients, and that Clear Channel would not allow NIPP to publicize its concerts on the air. The lawsuit was settled in 2004 when Clear Channel agreed to pay NIPP a confidential sum. However, a systematic analysis of concert ticket prices found no evidence that Clear Channel was cross-leveraging its radio interests with its (now divested) concert promotion interests.
Production of local programming
iHeartMedia uses the RCS Nex-Gen automation system throughout their properties. Like most contemporary automation systems, Nex-Gen allows a DJ from anywhere in the country to sound as if he or she is broadcasting from anywhere else in the country, on any other station. A technological outgrowth of earlier, tape-based automation systems dating back to the 1960s, this method—known as voice-tracking—allows for smaller market stations to be partially or completely staffed by “cyber-jocks” who may never have visited the town from which they are broadcasting. This practice may also result in local on-air positions being reduced or eliminated. It has been stated that iHeartMedia maintains a majority of its staff in hourly-paid, part-time positions.
Lack of local staff during emergency
Clear Channel was criticized for a situation that occurred in Minot, North Dakota, on the morning of January 18, 2002. At around 2:30 a.m., a Canadian Pacific Railway train derailed and leaked 240,000 US gallons (910,000 L) of toxic anhydrous ammonia, releasing a cloud of caustic, poisonous gas over the city. At the time, Clear Channel owned six commercial radio stations out of nine in the Minot area. City officials attempted to contact the local Clear Channel office by telephone to spread warnings of the danger using its radio stations, but it was several critical hours before the station manager was finally reached at his home. In the meantime, 9-1-1 operators were advising panicked callers to tune to KCJB for emergency instructions, but the station was not broadcasting any such information.
The ammonia spill was the largest of its kind in the United States, with one person killed, and over 1,000 seeking medical attention. Clear Channel claimed no responsibility for its failure to warn residents, maintaining that the city should have used the Emergency Alert System to trigger automatic equipment in place at all U.S. radio stations. The EAS equipment was later found to be functional at the time, but had not been activated by city, state or regional authorities. Unfortunately, other critical systems throughout Minot were either inoperable or had failed, including the public siren system, electricity in parts of the town, and the 9-1-1 telephone system, which became overloaded.
Rejection of advertising images
In June 2010 Clear Channel Outdoor rejected without comment two digital billboard images submitted by St. Pete Pride, an LGBT organization that sponsors gay pride events in the St. Petersburg, Florida area, leading the group to cancel its contract with Clear Channel. St. Pete Pride has stated that throughout its eight-year history, Clear Channel has edited the organization’s advertising material, and questioned whether the rejection of these images were because they displayed same-sex couples in affectionate poses. A Clear Channel spokesperson declined to comment on the specific reasons why the images were rejected but denied that the affection being shown was an issue, saying that such images had been included in previous St. Pete Pride campaigns.
iHeartMedia and its subsidiaries have been associated with censorship of state and federal candidates for public office, elected officials and various political viewpoints.
iHeartMedia has been criticized for censoring opinions critical of the Republican Party. Magic, the 2007 release from Bruce Springsteen which contained songs that were subtly critical of George W. Bush and his administration, was censored from air play on Clear Channel. Despite that, Springsteen’s album still sold very well. After Natalie Maines, the singer of the country band Dixie Chicks, told a London audience that they were “ashamed [of the fact that] the president of the United States is from Texas”, the band’s radio airplay dropped precipitously. Afterwards, some iHeartMedia (then Clear Channel) stations removed The Dixie Chicks from their playlists without any noted repercussions from the company. Gail Austin, Clear Channel’s director of programming said, “Out of respect for our troops, our city and our listeners, [we] have taken the Dixie Chicks off our playlists.” Clear Channel was accused of orchestrating the radio blacklist by such critics as Paul Krugman; however, others claim some Clear Channel stations continued to play the band longer than some other companies.
On May 8, 2014, the FCC was asked to respond to a political programming complaint, made against an iHeartMedia owned broadcast licensee, Capstar TX LLC by supporters of Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate for Governor of Wisconsin. Capstar would not give them any free airtime on its radio stations WISN (AM) and WTMJ (AM), in order to respond to statements supporting Scott Walker, the Republican candidate for office in the 2012 election. Walker’s supporters had received free air time from WISN and WTMJ for political campaigning purposes. Barrett supporters based their complaint on WISN’s violation of the Zapple doctrine. The FCC responded by rescinding the Zapple doctrine as a no longer enforceable component of the fairness doctrine.
Use of paid actors posing as callers
iHeartMedia, through its subsidiary, Premiere Radio Networks, auditions and hires actors to call in to talk radio shows and pose as listeners in order to provide shows, carried by iHeartMedia and other broadcasters, with planned content in the form of stories and opinions. The custom caller service provided by Premiere Radio assures its clients they won’t hear the same actor’s voice for at least two months in order to appear authentic to listeners who might otherwise catch on.
iHeartMedia and rock radio
iHeartMedia has caused controversy with rock music fans in major cities for changing the programming on several longtime rock stations to other formats. These have included:
- KSJO San Jose – flipped to Spanish-language oldies on October 28, 2004 after 35 years as a rock station
- KLOL Houston – flipped to Spanish-language pop on November 12, 2004 after 34 years as a rock station (the station was sold to CBS Radio a few years later)
- WFNX Boston – flipped to adult hits on July 24, 2012 after 29 years as an alternative rock station
- WKLS Atlanta – flipped to mainstream top 40 on August 29, 2012 after 38 years as a rock station
- KZEP-FM San Antonio – flipped to rhythmic hot AC on August 8, 2014 after 25 years as a classic rock station and 45 years of some form of rock music on the frequency (the classic rock format was moved to low-powered translator K227BH)
- KDGE Dallas–Fort Worth – flipped to Christmas music on November 16, 2016, then Mainstream AC on December 26 after 27 years (11 years on 94.5 before moving to 102.1 in 2000, and 16 years on 102.1) as an alternative rock station.
Similarly, on September 28, 2012, 640 WGST (conservative news/talk) changed formats to Spanish sports, sparking outrage from Atlanta listeners and petitions to return 640 to its original news format. On April 23, 2013, less than eight months after switching formats, it was announced that WGST would return to a news/talk format beginning June 3, 2013, with all syndicated programming.
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