The Voice of America

Clear Channel, the San Antonio-based radio behemoth, has been blamed for everything from politicizing the airwaves to destroying musical diversity, but has the company everybody loves to hate gotten a bum rap?

HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY FRIDAY!” blares the voice from the radio. “It’s Big D and Bubba in the morning!”

It’s rush hour, so to speak, in Abilene, on a dreary day in late January. Big D and Bubba are country music disc jockeys on KEAN-FM, 105.1 on the dial, the number two radio station in town. This is their drive-time show. Today they are talking by phone with country comedian Rodney Carrington about his new pilot on ABC. “Do you know how cool that is?” Big D asks Carrington, referring to the TV show. “That is just awesome! This is your shot to make it huge, man!” They chat on for several minutes. Bubba and Big D are fawning and ingratiating; Carrington is funny and anecdotal. Then, unprompted, Carrington breaks into a little song that begins, “Do you want to do something that rhymes with ‘truck’?”

To most listeners in the area, this might seem to be just another morning on a local radio show, but Big D and Bubba do not live within 500 miles of Abilene. In fact, they are careful never to reveal their true location—Nashville, Tennessee, where the two are employed at station WSIX-FM. Big D and Bubba’s show airs in Abilene through the magic of a technology called voice tracking, which allows songs, ads, and promos from Abilene to be seamlessly matched with voices from Nashville. The same sort of cyber-radio is taking place down the hall at two of KEAN’s sister stations in Abilene, KHYS-FM and KULL-FM. At KHYS, “Mornings With Chris and Dina” is actually voice-tracked from KZII-FM, in Lubbock, 150 miles away. At KULL—“Kool 92” oldies—midday host Gina Davidson is physically located in Biloxi, Mississippi, at station KMJY-FM. Nor is the “news” these stations air exactly local, or even proprietary. None of the three have a real news operation. They buy all their news from either CNN or from the TV station KTXS and run the same spots. Over at “The Talk of Abilene,” KSLI-AM, 100 percent of the programming—which includes syndicated personalities Glenn Beck and Sam Donaldson and news from CNN—comes from somewhere in cyberspace, very far away. KVVZ-AM, “The Ranch,” a “regional Mexican” station, plays music all day long like an automated jukebox. As far as one can tell, there are no deejays at all.

The common thread among all eight of these radio stations is their parent company, Clear Channel Communications. If you have been paying

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