By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Dixie Chicks and Clear Channel

The Boston Globe editorial page today runs a curious correction: “An editorial Tuesday misidentified the radio chain that pulled the Dixie Chicks from its country stations’ playlists in 2003. It was Cumulus Media, not Clear Channel Communications.” The editorial is linked from the correction.

Well, now. The way the Globe first had it is certainly the way I remember it. What happened?

To begin with, you will not be surprised to learn that Clear Channel itself loudly pats itself on the back for not doing what a lot of us think it did. Here’s what the corporate Web site says in part:

MYTH: Clear Channel radio stations banned air-play of the Dixie Chicks after political comments.

FACT: The radio company that banned the Dixie Chicks was Cumulus Media, not Clear Channel. That company also hosted the CD-smashing ceremony outside its Atlanta, Ga. headquarters, during which bulldozers crushed the group’s CDs. Simon Renshaw, the Dixie Chicks’ manager, told the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee in July that Clear Channel Communications did not ban the group’s music and had received a “bad rap.”

According to the blog Facing South, published by the Institute for Southern Studies, Cumulus‘ behavior was indeed more outrageous than Clear Channel’s — so much so that U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., once warned the company that its actions were turning it into a symbol of everything that’s wrong with media consolidation.

Still, it’s not as though Clear Channel stations never banned the Dixie Chicks. In March 2003, two Clear Channel stations in Jacksonville, Fla., dropped the Chicks following Natalie Maines’ “we’re ashamed” remarks about President Bush at a concert in London. So did the Clear Channel station in San Antonio, Texas, where the company is headquartered. And that’s just based on my quick Googling this morning.

Clear Channel also organized pro-war, anti-Dixie Chicks rallies across the country, featuring the loathsome Glenn Beck. And this Wikipedia entry strikes me as a pretty balanced summation of the charges against the company:

There is speculation that Clear Channel … may have directed their stations to [ban the Dixie Chicks], but the company states this was solely the work of local station managers, DJs, and angry fans. Some critics of Clear Channel, including the editors of Rock and Rap Confidential, say otherwise, claiming that Clear Channel executives, in a bid to gain support for various policies they were pushing in Washington, instigated the boycott among its country music stations to send a message to other musicians that criticizing President George Bush’s administration could hurt their careers through reduced airplay, etc.

It looks to me as though the original Globe editorial was true but not accurate. The correction is accurate but not true. Will the third time be the charm?

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  1. Anonymous

    No one cares about this one, do they? Rightly so.There is plenty in your piece to give the Globe a pass on this one. Pretty minor issue.What is a major underlying issue here is who is the loser? The band? Nahh they changed fans and evolved into some kind of pop hybrid and they keep selling. The radio stations? Nahhh they are still ringing in sales.Who is the loser? The arts.It is a shame that the public cannot enjoy an art product regardless of what its owner’s views are. Why can’t we just be classy enough to evaluate art on its merit and not if its on our side politically? Do we go see that movie if we disagree with the actor’s or director’s political stands? Do we buy that painting? Do we even listen to a new cd and give it chance at all? Or do we ask for the party card first?The way this affects art and its quality in our country is when a couple out west or down south forbid their kid to pursue her/his art affinity because of some stygma . Or when a lefty sculptor or painter doesn’t exhibit in Memphis or Lubbock or Salt Lake City or others, and those cities’ people miss out on that show. Or when a broadway producer skips a slew of ‘conservative’ towns and that little kid never watches a show that could be the revelation of a career.The Vietnam era shaped music and performance for the ensuing 20 years. Why can’t artists be allowed to be as rebellious as they wish. Who cares? It’s their constitutional right and share of the dialog. They don’t make policy. They don’t dole out govt budgets. Why can’t they at least speak their mind, whther it is Mains or Toby Keith without fearing retribution?How many donations will be canceled by corporate donors for this reason?N.

  2. Scott Allen Miller

    You do understand the difference between blacklisting an artist nationwide and holding an off-the-air station event, right? Beck’s rallies weren’t usually broadcast. Also, Clear Channel cancelled the pro-troop rally I tried to organize in Albany because they thought it would be too controversial. This was in January 2003, a few months before Beck started holding his events. (Our station carried his show, but he never came to Albany. I did speak at a rally that a group of veteran’s organized, but Clear Channel wanted no part in sponsoring it.)OK, let the personal cheapshots I’ve come to expect from some of the people who read this site begin.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Scotto: I agree with you in part, but we wouldn’t be having this discussion if all meaningful ownership caps hadn’t been removed in 1996. When one company, Clear Channel, is allowed to own 1,200+ stations across the country, it’s understandable that people are paranoid. And no, that’s not capitalism. I can go out tomorrow and start a daily newspaper to compete against the Globe and the Herald — all I need is $500 million. (Ha!) But a radio station? Forget it — all the frequencies are tied down, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

  4. Natasha

    I saw the independent film, “Protesting the Dixie Chicks” in which the Cumulus radio station in Bossier, LA is interviewed. The station that got a tractor to run over the Dixie Chicks’ merchandise. The DJ’s try to play it off like this was a listener promoted event and the banning of the Chicks music was purely responding to the listeners’ request. Truth comes out later and that wasn’t the case at all. Everything is corporate. There’s clips of it at: http://www.protestingthedixiechicks.com

  5. o-fish-l

    What’s truly amazing about Natalie Maines’ comments against our President is that they’re almost always framed as one Texan speaking against another Texan, rather than the wife of an Iranian-American speaking against the man regularly identified as “Public Enemy Number One” of her husband’s ancestral home.Although you’d hardly know it from the MSM, Natalie Maines is married to Iranian-American D-list actor Adrian Kayvan Pasdar. They have two children. The following questions would most certainly be asked by the average middle school cub reporter, yet the MSM hasn’t seemed to get around to them amidst their fawning over Natalie Maines. Here are some questions that need to be asked, soon:Dear Mrs. Pasdar (aka “Natalie Maines”):1) With more than 100,000 Iranian victims of Saddam’s chemical weapons during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, Iran is one of the countries of the world most severely afflicted by WMD’s. As part of an Iranian family, did you not even feel one smidgen of gratitude toward President Bush for ending Saddam’s reign-of-terror? 2) In this electronic age, most Americans know of your overseas comments against our President in time of war, but hardly anyone knows that you’re married to an Iranian-American. Did you make a conscious effort to conceal this or was it your record company? You have widely announced that you are ashamed to be from Texas, but are you also quietly ashamed at being part of an Iranian family? It would certainly seem so.3) You have been praised for writing songs about life’s struggles, particularly those of women. Any plans to write about the almost total transformation of the quality of life for women in Afghanistan since President Bush took action there? 4) Surely you hope that someday your two children can visit the birthplace of their grandfather, without any fear of being held hostage for 444 days. Which major American political party holds the most promise for oppressed Iranians yearning for the freedoms they once knew, pre-Jimmy Carter?

  6. Anonymous

    I am not sure whether You fishy or your post, are the symptom or the cause of the disease.Is it because of people like you that we have these misunderstandings and overexacerbated conflicts in diplomacy, or are you a result of the continued friction, that people like you stoop that low.Forget about what even a feminist would say to your contention that she can’t think or speak out on her own behalf, but that of her husband’s goading her.The basic premises behind your post are beyond moronic, sorry to say.N.

  7. Peter Porcupine

    Dan – you CAN start a radio station, just not a broadcast one.I was involved with the startup of Wide Awakes Radio (WAR) which can be reached by clicking on the microphone logo on the broadcasting stations (sample – While the channel is still experiencing technical difficulties, it is due in no small fact that the various broadcasters are spread out nationwide and are trying to solve problems via email.WAR may be a wave of the future – in retrospect, Air Amerika were fools not to try it.

  8. Neil

    o-fish-l, where to begin. How about a citation for that 100,000 “victim” number. Do you think we invaded Afghanistan because the Taliban oppressed women? Guess we’ll invade Saudi Arabia next then. Then Pakistan. The US tilted towards Iraq during its war with Iran. The war ended 15 years before Dear Leader deposed Saddam. Adrian Pasdar’s (Nathan Petrelli from Heroes, a great part!) dad is from Iran. Adrian’s a local boy, born in Pittsfield. Don’t go all melodramatic about wishing Natalie can “someday” visit the birthplace of her kids’ grandpa. Do you have some evidence Maines “made a conscious effort to conceal” that her husband’s father is from Iran, or are you just sliming. Maines was right about the war. Americans can visit Iran if they have Iranian relatives, without fear of being taken hostage.You say, “…the freedoms they once knew, pre-Jimmy Carter”, as if Carter was the cause of the Iranian revolution in ’79. Your last question also reveals an overinflated sense of our importance. Has Iraq taught us nothing about the limits of our influence? The Iranian revolution didn’t happen because of Jimmy Carter, and the fate of “oppressed” Iranians is not in the hands of either American political party. They don’t need George Bush to save them.

  9. man who's also ashamed of G.W. Bush being from texas

    Dan, it’s been widely rumored that the purchase of 102.5 by Greater Media cost in the neighborhood of $100 to $120 million dollars.Several of the weaker stations, mostly AM’s, have sold for just a few million dollars.UMass Dartmouth sold their old 91.1 frequency for just over $700,000 IIRC. Granted 91.1 is limited to the South Coast region; it doesn’t reach Providence or Boston. But still…This would imply that you could get your hands on a radio station more cheaply than starting a new newspaper. I’d bet if you offered $2 or $3 million to Boston College, Tufts University or Brandeis University…they’d sell WZBC, WMFO or WBRS (respectively).Make checks payable to the Trustees. 🙂

  10. Anonymous

    Sorry, off-topic a bit, but>>the almost total transformation of the quality of life for women in Afghanistan since President Bush took action there?<< Just back from Kabul again, and lived and worked in AFG most of a year, 2005-2006. There’s no way to characterize this statement beyond: Just not true. In many ways, in most places, women are far, far worse off. And I write, sadly, as a Bush voter.

  11. Anonymous

    Fish, Pasdar was born in Pittsfield and grew up outside of Pittsburgh. His homeland is right here. As part of an Iranian family? Get serious. And she’s “ashamed” of her husband? You said yourself, he’s D-List! Why WOULD anyone know about him?To suggest a middle school cub reporter would ask such questions is an insult to middle school cub reporters everywhere.

  12. o-fish-l

    anon 9:58 said: “Forget about what even a feminist would say to your contention that she can’t think or speak out on her own behalf, but that of her husband’s goading her.”—Anon, thanks. You make my point for me. She not only can but very vocally has, spoken out on her own behalf. The question is, if she is ashamed of President Bush on Iraq, how does she feel about President Bush being the last man standing to stop the reckless Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in neighboring Iran, the ancestral home of her two babies? I’m sure feminists believe she has every right to comment on this and also the right to make “no comment” which would be telling in itself.Neil said: “Do you have some evidence Maines “made a conscious effort to conceal” that her husband’s father is from Iran, or are you just sliming?”—Neil, I only have circumstanial evidence–not even Dan Kennedy knew that Maines’ husband was Iranian-American–that’s why I wish the MSM would ask her if there was a conscious effort to hide this. If she answered “yes” that would be direct evidence. Entertainers hiding what might be perceived as a “marketing problem” is old news. Just ask “ladies man” Rock Hudson, or TV talk-host Jon Leibowitz, more recently known as “Jon Stewart.” One can imagine marketing a then-country band with a lead singer married to an Iranian-American. Call it “sliming” as long as you call it the truth.It’s not just me that differs with your view that Jimmy Carter is blameless in Iran. This is the first of hundreds of internet “hits” I got. In an article in May 2002, NewsMax’s Chris Ruddy pointed out:”Remember Carter’s human rights program, where he demanded the Shah of Iran step down and turn over power to the Ayatollah Khomeini? “No matter that Khomeini was a madman. Carter had the U.S. Pentagon tell the Shah’s top military commanders – about 150 of them – to acquiesce to the Ayatollah and not fight him. “The Shah’s military listened to Carter. All of them were murdered in one of the Ayatollah’s first acts. “By allowing the Shah to fall, Carter created one of the most militant anti-American dictatorships ever.” ———–Neil also said: “Adrian Pasdar’s (Nathan Petrelli from Heroes, a great part!) dad is from Iran. Adrian’s a local boy, born in Pittsfield.”—Thanks for further evidence on the Iran cover-up, I didn’t know he went by an Italian surname on Heroes, isn’t that soft-racism? Wasn’t there a huge Hollywood dust-up when Native American roles were given to Mexicans? This is HUGE. I don’t get your main point. Charles G. Taylor was also a local boy, attended Bentley in the 1970’s and escaped from the Plymouth House of Correction in 1985. He went on to become President of Liberia. The crown Princess of Japan is a graduate of Belmont Hill. What gives?As for Adrian being born in Pittsfield, does that mean he must cease to recognize his heritage? You have 32 days to sound that alarm, since on March 17th there’ll be an awful lot of folks born in Pittsfield celebrating their own heritage from a different country also beginning with the letter “I.” While your at it, tell all the Pittsfield born members of Sons of Italy how uncouth it is to acknowledge ones family-tree. Tell the Mayflower Descendants too.—Anon 3:16Why would anyone know about Natalie Maines’ husband? Umm, maybe because EVERYONE knows about Kevin Federline and Guy Ritchie etc. and neither of their equally famous musical wives have been nearly as political.

  13. Neil

    fish, Adrian’s mom is German, so you might as well go for broke and just refer to him as the devil spawn of the Ayatollah and Hitler. No wonder Maines is ashamed!I like that “by allowing the Shah to fall, Carter…” quote. Like it was up to him.My opinion of our President is as low as Maines’ is, therefore I would be ashamed to be married to this Iranian-American. Because, how could I live with the hypocrisy! Yes, the logic is compelling indeed.

  14. Don

    The Dixie Chicks recently won three Grammys. Americans are either forgetful or forgiving. Eventually we’ll all come to believe that Hitler wasn’t such a bad guy. It’s the nature of the weakness of the American beast. Live with it, and expect to be a third-rate nation.

  15. O-FISH-L

    Neil: Again you avoid the point, now I guess it’s intentional. This has nothing to do with whether Adrian Pasdar is a good or a bad person. For the sake of discussion, I’ll stipulate that Adrian Pasdar and even Natalie Maines, are great people.This has to do with Maines’ comments against President Bush being framed as one Texan against another, with no mention, not even in passing, that her husband is an Iranian-American. Certainly you’ll agree with me that the Pasdar-Maines household has more of a personal interest in American-Iranian relations than most American households, no? So when the media allows Maines to prattle on against Bush, shouldn’t she be asked how her marriage has helped shape her opinion on US involvement in that region? God, for all we know her husband disagrees with her views. Sadly, nobody has asked. Instead we learn how it felt to have patriotic groups purchase thousands of her album$, then smash them. D’oh.The media has made a glaring omission, I suspect to protect Maines, much like the producers of “Heroes” has evidently tried to shield Pasdar by issuing him an Italian, rather than Iranian name. In fact, in this era of “soft-racism” I’d love to know how Maines feels about that! The ancestry of Adrian’s mother is irrelevant today since our troops vanquished Germany a while ago. Although if Maines proclaimed she was “ashamed” of Roosevelt during WW2, I’d have been asking the same questions.

  16. Anonymous

    You are missing the most obvious point. Clear Channel “Corporate” didn’t organize a company wide ban of the Dixie Chicks. Cumulus “Corporate” Radio did. Cumulus used it’s nationwide muscle to control play of an artist’s music. Clear Channel did not. So the following statement is true: Clear Channel Radio did not ban the Dixie Chicks.

  17. Anonymous

    Fish and Don comments are way off-base. They espouse a slippery slope trick to lump a lot of bad and good apples in the same basket. The old Hitler, Czekoslovakia and Chamberlain analogies are tired and inadequate; a demagogue’s dream refuge.If there were a good time to bring out that old unreliable ” Argument by analogy is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” it would probably be this one.There is a cliche that is often thrown around when two people disagree, but believe in this case, it really applies, literally: “Fish, you absolutely don’t know what you are talking about”And please stop sliming a much maligned, slimed and insulted president who is unfairly stereotyped, the only prez with a M E peace agreement under his belt.Just talk about gardening or something. You don’t have the brains, knowledge nor intellectual honesty to be talking about this stuff.CheersN.

  18. o-fish-l

    NYou still have avoided the facts. We know much more than we want to know about Kevin Federline, Guy Ritchie and other husband’s of famous musical wives. Why do we know nothing about Maines’ husband? Particularly since she has such strong opinions on the Middle East, where he descends from? Is it just a coincidence or might it put her comments into a different context, not to mention damage “the brand.”Apparently the producers of “Heroes” thought it would be good to conceal the Iranian thing too. Imagine if Mel Gibson made an Iranian use an Italian name?

  19. Neil

    fish your tenacity in spite of comically weak argument is an obvious troll but to your credit, an amusing one. Speak for yourself about what “we” know. I know more about Adrian Pasdar than I do about Kevin Federline or Guy Ritchie, because I clicked here. You too can know everything I know about him, by likewise clicking. Unless you want Natalie to click for you.I don’t know more than I want to know about those guys. I know that Kevin was married to Brittany Spears. Which I don’t mind knowing. I don’t know who Guy Ritchie is. Lionel Ritchie’s brother? If only there were an online search engine of some kind, where you could just enter a name, and get all the information you wanted, and sometimes more! That would render a lot of these accusations of concealment moot wouldn’t it. I bet somebody could make a lot of money off such a thing. I offer this idea for free.But your point is taken–we should not be ashamed of our Iranian friends and relatives. In that spirit I will lead the way for Natalie and reveal that my earlier reference was no joke and that in fact my girlfriend and I discuss President Bush’s misguided Middle East policies for hours into the night and this has shaped my opinion of that region and I have kept this relationship secret, because I was ashamed. We do have our fun though. She likes to wrap a towel around my head and call me her little Irish mullah while we do our “death to the Great Satan” toast. She even showed me this, to which I responded enough my darling, more than I want to know! More champagne?I think our President is an idiot, and my fiancee’s (for I have proposed, and await only my civil right of polygamy, surely imminent) mother came from Iran. Thus I am outed, thanks to you!

  20. Bob Downing

    I can only assume that “o-fish” is a barely-concealed hint that the author was representing a typically oafish view – to which several respondents replied (sensibly, yes) to the delight of whoever o-fish is.As to the point: I’m a Brit looking in bemusedly. Does it matter too much exactly which media giant did what? Both whipped up hysteria in one form or another for their own purposes, misled the people and should both be castigated.

  21. O-FISH-L

    Neil, congratulations on all of the above. If the media and the Grammy people ever begin to care about you it might be of some relevance that your fiancee’s mother is from Iran.p.s. Guy Ritchie is married to Madonna, the highest earning singer of all time. Interesting that you know Federline and Pasdar but not Guy. Hmmm.

  22. Anonymous

    Here’s my take: I don’t agree with what Natalie said….but I also don’t judge their music because of their politics. They are two seperate things. Natalie has the purest voice I have heard in decades. They are beautiful girls and very talented and sweet. It was her opinion. The fans also have a right to have an opinion as well. If you don’t like them because of what they said, don’t go to their concerts or buy their CDs and just give your opinion about the situation. That’s how free speech works but the death threats were uncalled for and almost criminal. Taking their songs off of the radio was wrong too. I just bought their CD and their documentary. Their kids are on it and they are CUTE! So are all of their husbands! My favorite songs are: Truth No.2, Voice Inside My Head, Lullaby, Easy Silence, Top of the World, and The Long Way Around, Cowboy Take Me Away, Not Ready To Make Nice.

  23. Anonymous

    Dont even try and make out BUSH went to iraq to save the IRAQI people it was for “weapons of mass distruction” and as for iranians being grateful seen as how saddam killed so many iranians well know this america supported saddam when it attcked IRAN for land and OIL so america could get a piece of it america even made financial controbution to saddam’s war. I think america should be ashamed of wot their president has done put ur self in the shoes of an iraqi….. if say BRITAIN attacked america saying america had weapons and they do attack and as a results thousand of americans die and american of different ethnic origins and religion turn on eachother would u not want to get ur own back on BRITAIN for cauing all this and not even providing evidence that america had weapons would you expect the british people to turn on their priminister for the illegal war he has caused. so i APPLAUD natalie maine for wot she said and i think rest of america should speak up for once. and by the way one of u said how her husbands other half is german therefore shes bound to be racists well here a statistic for u the biggest ethnic group in america are people of german ancesters so i’d watch wot u say U DONT WANNA SEE AMERICANS TURN ON EACHOTHER NOW!!!!!!!

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