The path to righteousness is not so clear for Bob and Bono

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by Ian O'Doherty, Belfast Telegraph

When U2 drag their massive tour around America and Europe, punters are guaranteed several things. They know, for instance, that they will be bombarded by corporate sponsorship at every turn. They know that they can expect to pay over the odds for food and drink. And they know that they can look forward to an evening of tub-thumping entertainment from a band who, even their critics accept, are an astonishing live act.

The high prices are hardly U2's fault, given the way the costs of running a tour have escalated so much in recent years. And Bono's hectoring exhortations to give more money to Africa and other worthy causes have the added benefit of giving concert-goers the sense that they were at more than just another concert, that they were somehow celebrants in a very 21st century Mass.

What they probably won't know is that U2 have also thrown their lot in with Clear Channel, the American media giant which is staging the band's tour. Clear Channel is "the 800-pound gorilla of American entertainment", according to Eric Boehlert, an American journalist who has been following the company's inexorable rise over the last few years.

Bono's people would be quick to point out that you have to deal with the biggest when your own tour is that big, and music fans will remember with a wince Eddie Vedder's brave, if ill-fated, attempts to curb the power of Ticketmaster a few years ago.

Clear Channel is not just a music industry behemoth, it's also a company which proudly represents the very antithesis of what Bono and the band claim to be about.

In the early 1990s, Clear Channel owned 500 radio stations across America. Since then, it has acquired 1,500 stations in America, with more in Europe, and anyone working for it had better conform to the ideas and rules espoused by its overtly Republican leadership.

In 1992, for instance, Clear Channel paid for billboards throughout Florida boasting a picture of George W Bush with the slogan "Our Leader" under his face.

As one local Florida politician commented at the time: "The first thing I thought was, when was the last time I have seen a president on a billboard? Didn't Saddam Hussein have his picture up everywhere? What next, a statue?"

The company first came to European prominence in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when it issued a list of more than 150 songs which were banned across its empire. Management subsequently sacked several DJs who played prohibited tracks.

Songs such as Walk Like An Egyptian and, incredibly, What A Wonderful World were banned, although Killing An Arab by The Cure wasn't mentioned.

Many Americans frustrated by the increasing stranglehold Clear Channel has over both radio and live music might be forgiven for thinking that Bono's time would be better spent trying to wrestle with that corporation rather than posing for photographs with European foreign ministers.

But it's not just Bono who has made strange bedfellows with the corporation - it is also staging the Live8 show in Hyde Park next month.

In a depressing sign of the times, Clear Channel has decreed that the best vantage points in Hyde Park will now be taken up by 15,000 "Gold Circle" corporate guests, while people who actually pay for their ticket will be left languishing in the poorest vantage points.

In what could be an interesting insight into the real control - or, rather, lack of real control - Bob Geldof actually has over the event, he is believed to have expressed concern that the television cameras will focus on what he refers to as: "the quail's eggs and champagne brigade". He may be uncomfortable with it, but there doesn't seem to be a lot he can do.

So while Bono and Bob flounce around the world, lecturing foreign leaders and the rest of us about what to do, perhaps they should try and sort out who they do business with first, before wagging their jewel-encrusted fingers at us the next time.

Leave it to the French to come up with the daftest idea of the century so far. Last week, Jacques Chirac - supported by the Germans - suggested a mandatory surcharge of up to €20 on all airline flights, to help generate aid for Africa.

Anyone who knows France's disgusting record of meddling in Africa's affairs - which continues to this very day - will have been allowed a bitter laugh at the chutzpah of a French leader attempting to lecture us on this matter.

As Rwandan commentator Paul Mugenzi wrote in the Kigali New Times last month: "They (French troops) fought along Habyarimana forces from the beginning to the end. They operated artillery pieces. They commanded troops. They were seen and heard by RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) soldiers in Byumba. People saw them having smeared themselves with black polish camouflage during the March offensive by RPA in 1993."

Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, son of Francois, is currently being investigated for illegal arms exports to both Rwanda (who funded les genociders) and Angola.

Maybe people would take their proposal for a new tax for Africa more seriously if they had suggested putting a tariff on every bottle of French wine and every block of French cheese sold.

Now that would have provided some interesting scenes.

Copyright © 2005 Independent News and Media (NI). All rights reserved.

3 Comments

interesting story. its a tangled web we live in & with, isn't it? And difficult to navigate for anyone. Esp. if powerful media sources become monopolistic & political propoganda.

On bono, he can't be all things, everywhere or solve everything although we'd like to think so. one has to pick and choose their battles, one at a time & he does. i think he & others may falter at times but he's well-informed and doing his best within this convoluted framework, with politicians, & all those greasy or blood stained hands, as well as balancing his conscience with his choices. he's a catalyst and piece of the puzzle & as we all are, in the day to day choices & commitments we make.

rubbish. he's somehow combined the issues of concert seating and french aid for africa? bono's the only person who can do that.

Hmm - not quite sure what to think about this story - particulalry the reference to the 15000 'gold circle' tickets and the subsequent comment that 'people who have paid for their tickets...' - sorry, but live8 is a free gig - no one who goes is paying other than the cost of the text message. Live8 have just released another 50000 tickets. So - some big company are going to make some money - every artist who plays is going to sell more records - so what. At least someone is trying to do something positive.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on June 13, 2005 7:20 PM.

Bono and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso at the EC headquarters in Brussels (June 9, 2005) was the previous entry in this blog.

Pooh-Bahs of Poverty is the next entry in this blog.

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