Chicks Manager Appears Before Senate Committee

Citing the backlash from Natalie Maines’ comment about President Bush during a March comment in London, Dixie Chicks manager Simon Renshaw went before a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee this week to speak out against the impact of radio consolidation by major corporations. Renshaw cited Cox Radio and Cumulus Media as two companies that banned the Chicks from their playlists after Maines said she was ashamed the president was from Texas. “Whether you agree with my client’s statements or not, I know you support the First Amendment,” Renshaw told the committee during the Tuesday (June 8) session. “Unfortunately, radio consolidation has provided radio networks with enormous opportunity to undermine free speech by boycotting records while they wage political wars with artists and labels. I appreciate that the networks also enjoy the same First Amendment rights as my clients. But we must remember that those who crafted the original limitations on ownership feared conglomerates exercising this kind of control over political speech.” Renshaw also noted, “Even the perception of a radio network using power in this way, clearly demonstrates the potential danger of a system of unchecked consolidation that ultimately undermines artistic freedom and cultural enlightenment. What happened to my clients is perhaps the most compelling evidence that radio ownership consolidation has a direct negative impact on diversity of programming and political discourse over the public airwaves.” During the meeting, Cumulus Chairman/CEO Lewis Dickey Jr. denied that it was a company-wide decision to temporarily suspend airplay of the Dixie Chicks. He said country radio programmers in individual markets were merely responding to listener demand. 07/10/03