Mark Murphy knows the biz. He's been in radio for more than 10 years as a program director for KGOT and he's now director of programming for Clear Channel Radio's six-station Anchorage operation, including FM stations KGOT, KASH, KBFX and KYMG.
Murphy has seen the best and worst of music hit the airwaves. But he's never been asked or told to yank 100-plus songs from station playlists in one fell swoop.
“[In programming] we pull out what makes sense and what best suits our research demographic,” Murphy said.
In an article printed in the Anchorage Daily News on Saturday, Sept. 22, a Scripts-Howard reporter alleged that executives at Clear Channel Communications, which owns more than 1,300 stations nation-wide, suggested the removal of 105 songs from airplay. The article indicates that pulling certain songs off the air after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack was out of respect for those in mourning and reflects the mood of the nation.
Included on the list of potentially inappropriate songs were “Imagine” by John Lennon, “Jet Airliner” by The Steve Miller Band and Frank Sinatra's “New York New York.”
Murphy said there were a few songs pulled off the air the minute news of the attacks reached Anchorage and up to a week thereafter.
“If we can be a little sensitive to the issues – let's do our part,” Murphy said. “But no one's gonna miss one song for two weeks anyway.”
Murphy says there wasn't a letter sent down from headquarters. He suggested that a program director at another Clear Channel operation circulated an e-mail indicating that was what his or her station intended to do and wanted to encourage others to do the same.
Regional vice president and general manager of Clear Channel Radio in Anchorage, Gary Donovan, did not know about the Daily News article.
When Donovan saw the article he denied the list. “It's a lot to do about nothing. There is no list,” Donovan said. “This is simply a case of bad journalism, creating a story that doesn't exist."
When catastrophe first struck on Sept. 11, almost every music station in Anchorage turned into a news station. During the week that followed the infamous day of terror, locally, Clear Channel did more than report the news.They were making it.
A group of Clear Channel employees hit the streets of Anchorage with American flags and red, white and blue ribbons hoping to find a few passers-by who would contribute to Clear Channel's relief fund. They were not let down.
“We raised almost $30,000 in a matter of hours in one of our first attempts,” Donovan said.
Since then, Clear Channel has helped raise over $100 million nation-wide to honor the victims, survivors and families affected by the events in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.
“We sent out press releases, but no one came to us for this story,” Donovan said.
“There have been a million acts of heroism since [Sept. 11] and the fact that we're sitting around writing stories about what songs do or don't get played is ridiculous.”