Clear Channel changes name to iHeart Media

i heart mediaWhen you think about Clear Channel, what usually comes to mind?

Layoffs. Voice tracking.  Low pay. Heavy commercial loads. The Arby’s of radio (OK, you get the drift.)

Looking for a fresh start, Clear Channel announced on Tuesday it was changing the name of the company to the more audience-friendly iHeart Media, named after the successful iHeart Radio Internet platform.

Technically, Clear Channel dropped the “Communications”part  from its name and added “Radio” after it sold its TV division. In 2012, it dropped “Radio” from its name and became Clear Channel Media + Entertainment, noting it owned properties other than radio stations.

IHeart owns and/or operates about 850 radio stations in the United States with seven in the Chicago area including top-rated WVAZ (V103) and successful outlets WLIT (My 93.9) and WKSC (Kiss 103.5).

IHeart also owns the top-billing stations in New York (WLTW-FM) and Los Angeles (KIIS-FM).

iHeart Music was launched as a website in 2008 and soon after became iHeartRadio, which was also available as an app for the iPhone and iPod Touch and later for Android, BlackBerry, iPad, and ROKu devices. iHeartRadio not only featured 750+ Clear Channel-owned radio stations, but also those owned by Cumulus and Tribune Media, owner of WGN-AM. Listeners could also watch concert and music videos, listen to podcasts, play music on-demand, and get news, weather, and traffic information.

iHeartRadio has branched out into live concerts, holding the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas, which grows in popularity each year and is featured as CW specials. Earlier this year, the iHeartRadio music awards was launched in Los Angeles.

iHeart Media CEO Bob Pittman – a former Chicago radio executive who was also one of the founders of MTV and discovered radio and TV talk show host Morton Downey Jr., said in this lengthy statement:

“iHeartMedia reflects our commitment to being the media company that provides the most entertainment to the most engaged audiences wherever they go, with more content and more events in more places on more devices,” said Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, Inc. “We have massive consumer reach and influence across our platforms because we know how to program the live content people want to hear, see and share right now, we are the largest mobile media company in existence — more than 60 percent of our broadcast usage is out of home, compared to just 30 percent for other mobile devices – and we deliver more live programming than any other media company today, built on the national and local on-air personalities who are the heart of our powerful broadcast radio franchises. Combined with Clear Channel Outdoor’s reach of over half a billion people worldwide across 30 countries and five continents, it’s clear that no other company can match our reach or broad spectrum of media platforms.”

Not affected by the change is Clear Channel Outdoor, Premiere Radio Networks, and Total Traffic, all of whom are keeping their names for now.

Under the Clear Channel name, the company was under fire for questionable business practices and employment moves. Recently, V103 released Ramonski Luv (Wade) despite finishing first in evenings with his on-air Joe Soto. In 2007, WGCI (another local CC station) fired morning host Howard McGee despite finishing in the top ten.

The most infamous example occurred when during President Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the company announced coast-to-coast layoffs, with reports of employees being escorted to the exits by security.

Clear Channel/iHeart also pioneered numerous industry staples including voicetracking (which every radio station now uses in one form or another), and also is known for running stations on the cheap and mismanaging them (which sadly, the industry has adopted as a whole – look at WGN Radio and WLS AM/FM… )

Last fall, WGCI (and Crawford WPWX-FM) were targeted by activists for playing salacious hip-hop and rap music aimed at children and teenagers in Chicago’s African-American community.

Some Twitter reaction :

Everyone knows Clear Channel can’t change their history despite changing their name. While iHeartRadio is one of the best internet radio products to come out in years, unless they change the way they do business and how they treat their personnel – and their audience (not to mention their coziness to Wall Street), then this change from Clear Channel to iHeart Media is pointless. It’ll only give distractors a new name to call it the next time a major layoff or questionable employment move takes place:

No heart.

[Editor’s note: All Clear Channel tags from this point forward are transitioning to iHeart Media. To find old Clear Channel stories without i Heart Media, use “Clear Channel” in the search box. – T.H.]