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Fox News spreads to Clear Channel Radio

NEW YORK — Fox News is making a push into American talkradio.

Clear Channel Radio has inked a five-year pact that will put Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News on 172 Clear Channel news and talk stations beginning in 2005.

Pact is, in effect, a relaunch of Fox’s radio business, which has consisted primarily of repurposed TV broadcasts since it launched in 2003, and will likely boost its network of affiliated stations to 500 by the middle of next year.

Fox News Radio expects to hire dozens of radio journalists to build out the service, as well as create radio shows around Fox TV personalities like Neil Cavuto and Greta Van Susteren.

Most of the Clear Channel news and talk stations currently take a news feed from Walt Disney’s ABC Radio. Fox topper Roger Ailes expects the net to become a strong competitor to ABC and to Viacom’s CBS Radio.

“This deal positions Fox News to become a significant player in the radio industry, and is another example of our commitment to the medium,” Ailes said.

Fox will provide a five-minute newscast at the top of the hour, a signature nightly news show and 24/7 dedicated news coverage. Fox will also have access to 500 local Clear Channel journalists via the company’s Clear Channel News Network.

Deal boosts Fox to 300 radio affiliates initially and to as many as 500 by mid-2005 if all the options in the deal are exercised, including 37 of the 40 top markets.

On same wavelength

Fox decided to launch its radio unit in response to research that showed a large number of talkradio listeners watched Fox News Channel once they got out of their cars.

“We are looking to bring the flavor and personality of Fox News to radio,” said Fox exec VP Jim Abernethy. “We want people to leave their home and get in the car and continue listening to Fox News Channel.”

Clear Channel, by far the nation’s largest radio conglom, owns 1,200 stations — about 9% of all radio stations nationwide.

“Working this closely with a premier national news provider for the majority of our news/talk stations makes overwhelming sense,” said Clear Channel Radio CEO John Hogan.

The all-cash deal will allow Clear Channel to significantly cut costs at its stations, Abernethy said.

ABC News’ deal with 100 Clear Channel stations is set to expire in August. Those stations will have the option of staying with ABC or switching to Fox.

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