Clear Channel encounters static (News & Observer)
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Sat Jun 5 09:59:24 EDT 2004
Clear Channel encounters static
Some in Durham fight firm's theater gambit
By MARGIE FISHMAN, Staff Writer
DURHAM -- Michael Bacon admits to programming two Clear Channel-owned
stations on his radio dial, even though he's convinced both regularly insult
He has seen Blondie and Sting perform at Raleigh's Alltel Pavilion at Walnut
Creek -- managed and booked by Clear Channel -- but grumbles about far-flung
lawn seats that make watching the big screen more enjoyable than the live
A Duke University computer administrator, Bacon is typical of the
grass-roots opposition bashing Clear Channel's involvement in a planned
4,000-seat events center in downtown Durham. Opponents criticize the media
giant for stomping on free speech and local arts diversity, while grudgingly
padding its pockets.
Clear Channel is the nation's largest broadcaster and concert promoter,
making it a lightning rod for critics of media consolidation. In the
Triangle, Clear Channel owns five radio stations, operates Alltel, books at
the BTI Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh and other large venues,
and has so far escaped organized opposition.
Until it butted horns with the Bull City.
Under a $42 million proposal -- more than half of which would be paid out of
local hotel tax revenues -- Clear Channel would control operations at the
largest theater in the state.
Expected to open in 2007, the city-owned performing arts center would
provide a new home for the American Dance Festival and join the redeveloped
American Tobacco complex and the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in sparking an
entertainment district just south of the train tracks, according to downtown
boosters. The City Council will vote Monday on whether to give Clear Channel
more time to exclusively negotiate with the city.
Trying to stop the momentum, opponents plan to flood City Hall to demand
that Durham find another theater operator.
"This building is a landmark," said Bacon, a member of a downtown arts and
business group opposing Clear Channel. "Do we want it to be mediocre,
watered-down and vanilla, and have Disney on Ice every other weekend?"
Supporters counter that Clear Channel's expertise and heft mean it can
attract crowds and protect taxpayers' $24 million investment.
Clear Channel's participation may have caused the most ruckus, but it isn't
the only obstacle to the theater project. Critics say a new 4,000-seat venue
isn't necessary when the local Carolina Theatre and the Durham Arts Council
building require significant upgrades.
Clear Channel has worked with Alltel for 14 years with no complaints from
the city of Raleigh, said Roger Krupa, Raleigh's convention center director.
Owned by the city, the 20,000-seat amphitheater earns roughly $500,000
annually for the city after debt payments, he said. Occasionally, outside
promoters apply to the city for Alltel bookings.
Jim Goodmon, who is developing the American Tobacco project as chief
executive of Capitol Broadcasting, has backed the Durham theater project
next door. Last year, however, Goodmon and others asked members of the
Federal Communications Commission to put limits on media conglomerates such
as Clear Channel.
Staff writer Margie Fishman can be reached at 956-2405 or
mfishman at newsobserver.com.
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