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, LLC 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 nation's largest owner of radio stations. Additionally, the company leases two channels on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, and has expanded its online presence through the iHeartRadio platform. iHeartMedia, Inc. also specializes in outdoor advertising through subsidiary Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, Inc.
The 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. The company's new name is intended to reflect its growing digital business. Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, Inc., explained: "We have a company that's doing progressive stuff, and yet we're named after AM radio stations."
Since 2008, iHeartMedia, Inc., has struggled to pay down more than $20 billion in debt the company acquired from its leveraged buyout. Various media outlets, including Bloomberg News, Reuters, Radio Ink, and iHeartMedia's hometown newspaper the San Antonio Express-News, claim that either bankruptcy or a major restructuring is likely, and may come as early as 2016. On April 20th, 2017, the company warned investors that it may not survive over the next 10 months.
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 AM 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.
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 all. 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 2005 Clear Channel Communications split into three separate companies. Clear Channel Communications was a radio broadcaster; Clear Channel Outdoor was out-of-home advertising; and Live Nation was live events. The Mays family remained in effective control of all three, and held key executive roles in each (with Mark Mays as CEO of both radio and outdoor and Randall Mays as Chairman of 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 $18.7 billion, which 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). The new ownership of Clear Channel also announced that all of its TV stations were for sale, as well as 448 radio stations that were outside of the top 100 markets. All of the TV stations and 161 of the radio stations were sold to a Providence Equity Partners, a private-equity firm, on April 23, 2007, pending FCC approval.
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. The company announced on July 30 that it would offer shareholders either $36 in cash or one share of CC Media Class A common stock for each share of Clear Channel common stock held.
In early 2010 it was announced that the company was facing 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 will remain as Chairman of the Board, a position he has held for a year prior. The board engaged Egon Zehnder International, a leading executive search firm, to lead the search for a new CEO. On October 2, 2011, Robert W. "Bob" Pittman was named CEO of Clear Channel.
On January 6, 2014, Clear Channel announced a marketing partnership with Robert F.X. Sillerman's SFX Entertainment (whose original incarnation was, coincidentally, sold to Clear Channel and spun off to form Live Nation), which will see the two firms collaborate on electronic dance music content for its digital and terrestrial radio outlets; including a Beatport top 20 countdown show (which will air on some of iHeartMedia's major-market contemporary hit radio stations), a national talent search, and an "original live music series", which will include two concerts in the style of its Jingle Ball events around Halloween 2014. The partnership will expand upon iHeartMedia's existing EDM-oriented outlets (such as Evolution). iHeartMedia 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 2016, one of the company's directors, Julia B. Donnelly, left the board of iHeartCommunications and will be replaced by Laura A. Grattan, a director at Thomas H. Lee. Grattan 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.
Clear Channel sale
On Friday, November 17, 2006, Clear Channel announced that it was going private and selling off almost one-third of its radio assets, according to The Washington Post and DHM. The buyers, led by Bain Capital Partners and Thomas H. Lee Partners, agreed to pay $26.7 billion for the company. 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, presumably because the private-equity buyers are not interested in owning television or small-market radio. Over a hundred stations have already been assigned to Aloha Station Trust, LLC upon the consummation of the merger. The television stations were ultimately sold to Newport Television.
On September 25, 2007, the shareholders approved of the buyout, allowing Clear Channel to proceed with being taken private, ending 35 years as a public company.
Setbacks and cost-cutting
Due to the credit market crunch of 2007, Clear Channel ended up with rejected sales 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 parent company Providence Equity Partners 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 merger from December 12, 2007, to June 12, 2008. The buyout finally closed in July 2008. The company, which has laid off thousands of employees in recent years, 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. Later on January 20, the company said that the total count of employees to be terminated would be 1,850, or 9%.
Between January and May 2009 Clear Channel eliminated 2,440 positions. On May 20, 2009, Clear Channel announced an initiative to help its radio station listeners who are seeking employment to market their skills and unique features on the air to attract the attention of employers with available positions.
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, $1 billion more than the number-two group owner, CBS Radio. In 2012, iHeartMedia (then Clear Channel) announced that it will be the first radio group to pay performance royalties to record labels and musicians for the broadcast of their music across the Clear Channel radio airwaves. iHeartMedia has entered into revenue-sharing agreements with Big Machine Label Group, Glassnote Entertainment Group, eOne, Dualtone, DashGo, rpm Entertainment, Robbins Entertainment, Naxos, Wind-up Records, Fearless Records, Zojak World Wide, and band Fleetwood Mac. This ground breaking deal has established a long-awaited bridge between record labels and radio groups. This deal between iHeartMedia, the record labels, and the artists allows iHeartMedia to pay digital performance royalties from a percentage of advertising revenues from streaming and web-casting of music instead of a pay per play model. In exchange, the record labels and artists receive airplay revenue from both digital and broadcast radio platforms. Before the deal only songwriters and producers received performance royalties from radio airplay.
iHeartMedia has purchased stations from or acquired the following radio companies:
- The Ackerley Group
- AMFM Inc.
- Chancellor Media
- Capstar (also operating under Gulfstar, Southern Star, Pacific Star, and Atlantic Star)
- Apex Broadcasting
- Clark Broadcasting
- Dame Media
- Eastern Radio Assets
- Metro Networks
- Mondosphere Broadcasting
- Metroplex Communications
- Paxson Communications
- Quad City
- Radio Equity Partners
- Roberts Radio
- Taylor Broadcasting
- Trumper Communications
- US Radio
- XM Satellite Radio (service and programming agreement)
Clear Channel Outdoor is an advertising company owned by iHeartMedia.
- Bought Eller Media, Universal Outdoor, and More Group Plc, giving iHeartMedia outdoor advertising space in 25 countries.
- Owns part of an Italian street furniture company, Jolly Pubblicita S.p.A.
- Owns BBH Exhibits, Yellow Checker Star Cab Displays, Dauphin OTA created by Jacques Dauphin, Taxi Tops (sold to VeriFone in January 2010), Donrey Media, and Ackerley Media. Also owns an outdoor advertising company in Switzerland and Poland and a major outdoor advertising firm in Chile.
- Has a partnership with APN News & Media in Australia, which has resulted in a 49% share in Adshel, a street furniture advertising company. APN News & Media is the majority shareholder (owning 51% of Adshel).
- Operates over 500 digital billboards in 32 markets.
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, Newport announced its intentions to sell off as many of the former Clear Channel stations as is legally allowed to Cox Media Group, Nexstar Broadcasting Group and Sinclair Broadcast Group.
On December 21, 2005, Clear Channel completed the spin-off of Live Nation, formerly known as Clear Channel Entertainment. Live Nation is an independent company (NYSE: LYV) and is no longer owned by iHeartMedia. Live Nation UK was also included in the spin off.
Note that post-spinoff, there is overlap in the board between iHeartMedia and Live Nation, specifically: L. Lowry Mays, Mark P. Mays (Former Vice Chairman of Live Nation), and Randall T. Mays (Former Chairman of Live Nation).
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 Radio Networks
- Fox News Radio
- Fox Sports Radio Network
- Acquired and later sold the Agri Broadcast Network (ABN), a farm programming provider in Ohio
- Publishes Inside Radio magazine
- Total Traffic reports on road and traffic conditions across the United States, and in Mexico City, Mexico; these are used by many GPS navigation systems.
- Fan Radio Network a sports radio network that serves Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota. Flagship station is KFXN 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
- Large numbers of billboards (through a takeover of Adshel)
- See Clear Channel UK
- Operates urban bicycle sharing systems in several European cities:
- Norway – Oslo: Oslo Bysykkel; Drammen: Drammen Bysykkel; Trondheim: Trondheim Bysykkel –
- Sweden – Stockholm: Stockholm City Bikes – 1,000 bikes in 80 stations –
- Italy – Milan: bikeMi – 1,300 bikes in 103 stations –
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.
Current members of the board of directors of iHeartMedia are: David Abrams, Scott Sperling, John Connaughton, Ian Loring, Jonathan Jacobson, Blair Hendrix, Irving Azoff, Matthew Freeman, Julia Donnelly, Christopher Eccleshare, Richard Bressler and Bob Pittman.
Tom Hicks and Vernon Jordan were formerly members of Clear Channel's board of directors. Jordan was a close friend and advisor to President Bill Clinton and was accused of lying to investigators during the investigations into perjury and obstruction of justice charges against Clinton. Hicks, Clear Channel's former vice-chairman, is a past donor to George W. Bush's political campaigns and a close associate of the Bush family. Hicks is the founder of Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, the private-equity firm that funded many of Clear Channel's antecedent companies, including most significantly CapStar, Chancellor Media and AM-FM, Inc.
- Bob Pittman: chairman and chief executive officer;
- Richard J. Bressler: president, chief operating officer and chief financial officer.
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 is a think tank run by iHeartMedia that produces over eighty channels of programming, varying from mainstream formats to the highly experimental. These channels are heard on most of iHeartMedia's HD Radio subchannels on its stations across the country in a commercial-free format.
Only a few iHeartMedia stations (such as KGB-FM) produce locally originated HD2 channels, usually tape loops of programming heard on their regular channel.
iHeartRadio is an social media site that serves as an outlet for local and regional media personalities, allowing them to share photos and videos.
iHeartMedia Alternative Stations usually are branded as "Radio" (such as Radio 104.5 in Philadelphia or Radio 105.7/96.7 in Atlanta), or "ALT" (Alt 98.7 in Los Angeles, Alt 104.9 in St. Louis, and Alt 106.3 in Des Moines). Others include: The Edge, The Buzz, The Project, or X. Their flagship Premium Choice Alternative Station is The Alternative Project broadcasting on WAXQ-FM 104.3 HD-2 in New York City.
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.
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 KMJM/St. Louis and KUBT-HD2 & its translator 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, and WJMN-FM/Boston; a similar "Jammin'" is used at WJJS/Roanoke & WJJX/Lynchburg), Hot 104.5/San Antonio and B95/Fresno. Others Rhythmics, such as 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 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. 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. 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. This network is broadcast via HD-2 subchannels of many iHeartMedia-owned stations, such as WMGF in Orlando, although not all stations will carry it, often opting to substitute its own programming, as is done with WDAS (AM) in Philadelphia.
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, while the LGBT community is served by the more broader-based Pride Radio. 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.
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 Program (Beck having gotten his talk show start at iHeartMedia (then Clear Channel) owned WFLA (AM) in Tampa), The Rush Limbaugh Show, The Sean Hannity Show, America Now with Meghan McCain and Coast to Coast AM with George Noory, all of which are affiliated with Premiere Radio Networks in some fashion. The Mark Levin Show and The Dave Ramsey Show 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. 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-Cumulus 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.
iHeartMedia does not operate any all-news radio stations. For a brief time in the late 2000s, KFXR in Dallas ran a direct feed of HLN under the on-air name CNN 1190, but KFXR dropped that format in 2009. Almost all of iHeartMedia's primary talk stations are affiliated with Fox News Radio for national news, part of a multi-year deal between iHeartMedia and Fox. However, since 2012 iHeartMedia has provided an all-news feed called 24/7 News. This radio network is exclusive to iHeartRadio. Since 2016, 24/7 News partners with NBC News to launch the NBC News Radio.
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 Dial Global 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
In the twentieth century, the most recognizable form of sports talk radio was major league baseball. Before becoming a major media force, sports talk radio in the United States enjoyed a long growth period. In the 1920s, Americans found love and passion in boxing, which lead boxing to become the very first sporting event that was broadcast on sports talk radio to a wide-open audience. Sports talk Stations are changing and evolving, as are the interests of new generations of listeners. Most sports talk stations owned by iHeartMedia are affiliated with Fox Sports Radio. They are usually branded either Fox Sports or The Sports Animal. 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 Dial Global'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, WLTW in New York, or WLKO in Charlotte) or "Sunny", although some stations use "Magic", "B" or something else similar as their identifiers. 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 and the in-house American Top 40 the 1970s (or 1980s) with Casey Kasem are popular weekend syndicated programs on iHeartMedia 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 KAAZ-FM in Salt Lake City 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, KPWK Seattle, WGEX Albany, Georgia), Channel (e.g., WKQI Detroit, WHQC Charlotte, KHTS-FM San Diego), or "Hot" (e.g., WIHT in Washington, D.C., WWHT in Syracuse, NY). Other brands, less commonly used, includes "Radio Now" (WRNW Milwaukee, WNRW Louisville), "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 D.C.'s The Kane Show (especially in the middle Atlantic and Uppermidwest states); Elvis Duran and the Morning Show based out of WHTZ, New Jersey/New York's Z100; John, Jay & Rich based out of KZZP Phoenix, Arizona (especially in the Rocky Mountain states), and Kidd Kraddick In The Morning based out of KHKS in Dallas/Fort Worth (primarily in the South Central United States). Some East Coast CHR stations carry On Air with Ryan Seacrest (based out of KIIS in Los Angeles) middays.
On weekends, syndicated programming is commonly carried, primarily: Most Requested Live with Romeo, Club Kane, the iHeartRadio Countdown, American Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest, Dawson McAllister Live, and Evolution with Pete Tong.
Country music stations owned by iHeartMedia have begun transitioning to "The Bull" like KSD (FM) in St. Louis and "Big" like WEBG in Chicago as national brandings as of 2014. They almost universally carry After Midnite, the syndicated overnight program currently hosted by Cody Alan, and often carry Bobby Bones's morning show 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 in the evenings while some others air Sixx Sense with Nikki Sixx. 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 in morning drive. In the Southern United States, John Boy and Billy 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 Houston and the Morning Glory out of Cleveland. Starting with WQBW Milwaukee (which has since switched to another format) and WBWR Columbus, several iHeartMedia stations have adopted an 1980s-centered classic rock approach called "The Brew."
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 iHeartMedia in September 2004 (when it still was called Clear Channel) 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.
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 2004 Super Bowl, 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) 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.
The incident has been cited as an example of the physical dangers of media consolidation and the prevalent cost-cutting measure of eliminating overnight staff at stations.
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 has been criticized for censoring opinions critical of George W. Bush and other Republicans. 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.
A smaller percentage of iHeartMedia's AM talk/music stations have been in the progressive talk format (featuring the now-defunct Air America Radio network) and iHeartMedia has also been a media sponsor of Frameline, the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival.
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 has been 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.