iHeart’s future

John Malone’s Liberty Global has reached a deal with UK based Vodaphone to sell Liberty’s European Cable TV assets, which will net Liberty about €10 million, currently around $12 billion.

Speculation is ramping up that Malone will follow up on his offer to buy out some or all of the senior debt holders interest in the “new” Clear Channel. The $20 billion of debt is a huge number for a company whose primary assets are just pieces of paper, but in the big scheme of things, it isn’t a huge number if someone saw a way to run it for a profit.

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Alpha is next

A man named Larry Wilson got into radio in the 1980s in Montana owning tiny stations. In 1990, he formed a company called Citadel. He continued buying up small failing radio owners at a bargain, hoping to turn them around with better management.

He was in the right place at the right time when the Telecom Reform act of 1996 was passed. He quickly acquired a total of over 200 stations in unrated or tiny markets, doing essentially the same thing Cumulus was doing – staying out of the way of competing with Clear Channel’s almost unlimited credit line.

When the radio bubble burst around 2000, Mr Wilson turned the company over to a private equity firm Forstmann Little for a reported $2.1 Billion – most people assumed it was a voluntary transaction from which Mr Wilson profited handsomely. He stopped working for Citadel and was no longer present when Citadel tried to consume ABC Radio (from Disney) and almost immediately dived into Chapter 11, and was quickly combined into Cumulus.

With the bankruptcy of Cumulus and iHeart / Clear Channel, Moody’s has decided the downturn in radio is permanent and debt from radio owners is high risk, deserving of higher interest rates.

Alpha Media, the company that Larry Wilson formed a few years ago to repeat his prior success failed to file its financial reports on time this quarter, which triggers a default – if a lender chooses to push the issue – which hasn’t happened yet, but Moody’s downgraded the debt and is threatening more downgrades soon if they don’t get clarity from the parties.

If you are interested in seeing their station portfolio

Alpha Media stations

70 are AM stations and most are in places you have never heard of or visited. If you measure bigness by license counts, they are a big player – if you look at revenue and national audience, they are tiny.

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The changing political landscape of Charlotte

While there are a few semi-autonomous cities left in Mecklenburg County, the reality is that the County and Charlotte are close to unified. The city runs the police department, water and sewage and police, and the County runs the schools, courts and jails.

In 2012, the Democrats held the Barack Obama renomination convention here, at which he declared that Charlotte is a wonderful place and Democrats should move here to move NC into the reliably Democrat column. At the time, the Governor was a first term Democrat woman and the legislature was controlled by Democrats (many of whom are still Conservatives)

Republicans play very little role in local politics in North Carolina. The legacy of Democratic domination from their Jim Crow era laws lives on. When Countess and I went to visit the Mecklenburg Republican Party web site to see about the primary, the only event listed yesterday was the Republican Women’s group was having its $20 monthly lunch in Huntersville, up near the affluent Lake Norman area.

Our ballot had only two items – US House District 9 and our NC State Senator. The Incumbant easily won the NC Senate race. He was the author of HB2 and was challenged by a woman who has a gay son.

The Republicans ran no candidates for any of the County offices. The most important was the office of Sheriff. The white incumbant was trounced by a former CMPD detective who ran on the platform of ending the practice of checking people arrested against Federal immigration databases.

The House race is the only one that may affect you. Robert Pittinger just barely won his primary two years ago during a strange election caused by a federal judge throwing out the state drawn district map. Our district runs all the way from South Charlotte to East of Fayetteville. South Charlotte is rich and white and moderate. The rest of the district is rural, very Conservative, poor, religious and hates everything about Charlotte.

Pittinger lost the primary last night to a Southern Baptist minister who runs a mega church in Charlotte. Pittinger ran on “I am here to support Donald Trump” and lost by about 800 votes.

The Democrats are running a man in the general election who joined the Marines after 9/11 and served in the surge in Iraq. He received more votes in the almost uncontested Democratic Party primary than the Republicans had combined. He exudes being a moderate, but if elected would increase the chances of changing control of the US House.

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Taking the Jump

A few months ago, Countess and I went to Dunn, NC to visit my niece. The Apple iPhone decided that we should drive around the Western end of Fort Bragg, and were curious about why so much land near Fayetteville is set aside for the base.

Following the C-130 crash recently, we started talking about the difficulties of deploying Army tanks to the Middle East – that the C130 isn’t big (wide?) enough to carry an M1 tank. The only planes that can are the C-5 and the C-17 – both are slow moving turboprops that require in-Flight refueling if they go more than a couple thousand miles. That is why it took so long to stage the forces for the first Iraqi intervention.

In any case, Youtube concluded that I might enjoy this video

This is under ideal conditions – Clear day, huge flat landing zone, nobody firing at you. We know from D-day that dropping paratroopers behind enemy lines can become a snafu quickly, but at least these people would not be jumping for the first time.

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“American” Car Jobs

Things are not as simple as they used to be

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John F Kerry is colluding with Iran

The news was reported first by the Boston Globe (which sits behind a paywall)


The framework was agreed to by the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council and the EU. Any attempt to apply unilateral sanctions against France, Germany, Russia, China and the UK could be a disaster.

Former Presidential Candidate, Vietnam war hero, former US Senator and former US Secretary of State (appointed after Hillary Clinton left the office) has been meeting with world leaders – including the foreign minister of Iran – to try to salvage the Iran nuclear deal from Trump’s threatened withdrawal.

This collusion to undermine the foreign policy of President Trump is a slam dunk violation of the Logan Act, unless he was authorized by someone who has the power to do so. Congress has oversight authority over government operations, but the President and his employees conduct foreign policy through the Department of State.

One explanation being trotted out is that Paul Ryan knew.

It is time for a special prosecutor to investigate this collusion with the government of a dangerous “enemy”.

The British and Europeans have been direct on this issue that they will scrap the entire agreement if the US unilaterally withdraws. As weak as the Iran nuclear agreement is, they don’t like what President Trump is doing. In the absence of that agreement, the previous sanctions are not reinstated.


Barack Obama (and Iran) were warned by Candidate Trump that unless the deal was handled as a treaty, subject to ratification by the US Senate, President Trump would have the power to withdraw from the agreement. Some started the charge that Trump had violated the Logan Act

Did Donald Trump Violate the Logan Act? Probably Not, But It’s Still a Terrible Look

Of course, we need to consider the possibility that President Trump and / or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo DID authorize the collusion, which could explain why the Boston Globe is reporting this.

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Explain this

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Townsquare’s survival plan

Many people probably have no idea who the third largest (by number of stations) commercial radio station is – Townsquare is the one not in bankruptcy.

After the radio bubble burst, a Private Equity firm created Townsquare, headquartered in the upper floor of a small bank building in Greenwich Connecticut. They ran around buying up nearly-dead smalll town radio stations, many in the rust belt of Western New York and most of the Clear Channel castoffs.

Their plan was admirable – pour resources into small town radio stations, stay local, and broaden revenue sources by using the radio to promote paid events that they ran, like concerts. Build out a high quality web site and stream the programming.

Now they (and others) have a problem – ad blockers. I think I read that 60% of people are now using ad blockers. If your whole business model depends on people being forced to endure downloading megabytes of unwanted click bait, you have a problem.

Townsquare has a solution – if you visit their web site and it detects an ad blocker, you will be offered the option of casting aside Chrome (or Firefox, etc) and download a new web browser you have never heard of from a company you have never heard of – through the alternate browser called Brave, which will generate revenue through donations or voluntary ads that use a block chain crypto currency.

While most people will not know the brains behind Brave, long term readers here might. Brendan Eich is the man who invented Javascript in a week while working for Netscape. His career as Mozilla CEO came to an abrupt halt when he admitted he gave $1,000 to support the “anti gay” Prop 8 – the California law passed by direct democracy that defined marriage as between one man and one woman.


There are 14,000 other radio fish in the ocean (just in the United States). The only person who will ever download an extra browser to look at a radio station web site is the person at Townsquare who made the decision.

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Public radio acquires podcaster

NPR, WNYC (New York), WBEZ (Chicago) and This American Life have acquired Pocket Casts.


The most surprising thing in the story is the new CEO is a veteran of iHeartradio

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MAY we hep you?

May brings the beginning of new optimistic living things growing from the energy of those that came before.

And golf.

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