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Senators Disturbed by Dixie Chicks Ban

Senators Disturbed by Dixie Chicks Ban

Lew, Lowry feels your pain.
Clear Channel’s Lowry Mays was in the hot seat during Sen. John McCain’s first hearing on radio ownership and consolidation earlier this year. On Tuesday, Cumulus Chairman, President and CEO Lew Dickey had the pleasure.
It was the first chance that members of the Senate Commerce Committee had to scrutinize radio since the FCC released the new media ownership rules.
Given the agenda, observers expected the committee to review the new radio market definition, but little time was spent on that topic. Instead, the Dixie Chicks controversy dominated the hearing.
Senators expressed concern over media concentration giving large radio groups power to trample an individual’s First Amendment rights. That’s what McCain said essentially happened to the Dixie Chicks after one of its members criticized U.S. involvement in the war with Iraq.
McCain grilled Dickey over the month-long ban of Dixie Chicks airplay. Dickey said several times there was a “hue and cry” from country format listeners to get the Chicks off the air. He said that after meeting with PDs, corporate officials decided on the ban for its country stations. The Chicks were still played on Cumulus’ Top 40 stations because those listeners didn’t object, he said.
McCain said, “I was as offended as anyone by the Dixie Chicks, but to restrain their trade … it’s an issue of concentration.”
Several senators feared such a ban could be applied to political speeches that a group owner felt could hurt its business.
Sen. Barbara Boxer likened the ban of the group to blacklisting of writers considered to be communists in the 1950s.