Radio Giant Citadel Broadcasting Plans Huge Bankruptcy

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It is a sign of two things. The first is that the credit crisis is still keeping bank and private-equity purse strings tight. The other is that portions of the media industry now lay in ruins from which they may never be rebuilt.Citadel Broadcasting (CTDB), the third-largest radio station owner in the U.S., will probably file for Chapter 11 on Sunday. The filing has apparently been approved by lenders who are owed $2 billion. According toThe Wall Street Journal, creditors are prepared to approve a deal that "would reduce Citadel's debt load to about $762.5 million." Equity holders will likely get nothing.

Larger rival Clear Channel recently restructured its debt, which was at one time $20 billion. Citadel's flagship station, WABC radio, is the home of Don Imus (pictured) and Rush Limbaugh, two of the most successful broadcasters of the last quarter century. Even with an impressive stable of talent, Citadel couldn't bring in the revenue necessary to keep its head above water.

Attempts by the radio industry to bring back its fleeing audience are unlikely to be successful. Satellite radio may not be a financial success, but Sirius XM (SIRI) does have close to 20 million subscribers. More people use iPods and internet radio to get access to music, and the Internet has replaced radio, TV and print as the preferred medium for news among a large audience that wants to get information when they want it, not on the "clock" that most radio stations use.

Radio isn't dead, and may never be. But it's wounded enough that it may never be even modestly profitable again.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.
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