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Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for iHeartRadio

iHeartMedia, the holding company of iHeartRadio Inc., the biggest operator of radio stations in the United States, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The San-Antonio-based group reached an in-principle agreement with creditors to restructure an overwhelming amount of debt that had compounded since a private-equity buyout over a decade ago.

Why it matters: iHeartRadio, which owns over 850 radio stations throughout the country, has seen advertising revenues fall flat to major technology companies — much like others in the traditional media landscape.

iHeartMedia also owns a 90% stake in Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc., a billboard company where most of the company's cash on hand comes from, and runs a popular concert business. The company has been unable to offload Clear Channel to lenders in exchange for relief and will not be filing that unit for bankruptcy.

“The agreement we announced today is a significant accomplishment, as it allows us to definitively address the more than $20 billion in debt that has burdened our capital structure. Achieving a capital structure that finally matches our impressive operating business will further enhance iHeartMedia’s position as America’s #1 audio company.”
— Bob Pittman, iHeartMedia's Chairman and CEO

The company was faced with $20 billion in debt which had compounded roughly over the past ten years.

  • Executives expect the agreement with owners to offload $10 billion of that debt for a financial restructuring will reduce debt enough to keep the company operating with the cash it has on hand.
  • Day-to-day operations of its businesses, at least for now, are not expected to be dramatically affected.

iHeart has seen its business take a hit from the rise of audio streaming, mainly via Pandora and Spotify.

  • The company launched a subscription service last year with Napster, which has been successful, but not enough to save the company from the mounting debt.
  • Its terrestrial radio business, the largest in the country, also struggled to maintain advertising revenues to offset mounting debt costs.

Go deeper

Home confinees face imminent return to prison

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Thousands of prisoners who've been in home confinement for as long as a year because of the pandemic face returning to prison when it's over — unless President Biden rescinds a last-minute Trump Justice Department memo.

Why it matters: Most prisoners were told they would not have to come back as they were released early with ankle bracelets. Now, their lives are on hold while they wait to see whether or when they may be forced back behind bars. Advocates say about 4,500 people are affected.

The "essential" committee that still doesn't exist

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Nearly five months after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the creation of the bipartisan Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, it's not been formed much less met.

Why it matters: Select committees are designed to address urgent matters, but the 117th Congress is now nearly one-quarter complete without this panel assembling. When she announced this committee, Pelosi described it as an "essential force" to "combat the crisis of income and wealth disparity in America."

Biden's ethics end-around for labor

President Biden surveys a water treatment plant during a visit to New Orleans today. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration is excusing top officials from ethics rules that would otherwise restrict their work with large labor unions that previously employed them, federal records show.

Why it matters: Labor's sizable personnel presence in the administration is driving policy, and the president's appointment of top union officials to senior posts gives those unions powerful voices in the federal bureaucracy — even at the cost of strictly adhering to his own stringent ethics standards.