Fmr. MTV CEO: Businesses Confused by Obama Policy

Bob Pittman on president's handling of economy, growing jobs


NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF, "YOUR WORLD": OK, we have General Electric, American Express, Ford, Comcast. President Obama's talking with the bosses of all of these companies and more ahead of his post-Labor Day jobs announcement.

My next guest has some advice for the president as well. Bob Pittman is the chairman of media platforms at Clear Channel Radio. You might remember him from MTV fame. He got that up and running, and people were dismissing it then, and this little thing called AOL, brilliant timer of all things corporate.

Bob, good to have you.


CAVUTO: So, you know a thing or two about how to get businesses going. If the president were to call you, what would you tell him?

PITTMAN: Well, I think I would tell him there are two things going on.

You have got to get more people working. And you've got to get people who have money to spend it. And I think the two are somewhat related. I think if you want to create jobs, you have got to understand it is not just manufacturing. And, oh, by the way, the manufacturing we have, we need to make sure we take care of the industries we already have that are doing well.

And I think on the other side is, who's going to start those businesses, Silicon Valley, or wherever, small businesses, is, and do we have tax policies that are unified to help them and encourage them? I think on the demand front, advertising works. How do you get businesses comfortable spending money on advertising to create demand for their products? Because the more products people buy, the more jobs there are in those companies.

CAVUTO: I hear from a lot of your colleagues, though, they're sitting on all this cash that’s sitting abroad, most of it. And they say to a man or woman, bring it home tax-free. What we do will surprise you.

What do you say?

PITTMAN: Well, I'd say, look, if anybody says I'm going to suddenly put a lot of money into the economy, that's got to be good for us. I don't care whether it cares from abroad or whatever the source is. That’s got to help us.

And, by the way, I think those companies, if they would use it for advertising, for new products, for new businesses, those are all things which directly affect job creation.

CAVUTO: And would help your business right now.

PITTMAN: Help ours, help yours, too.


CAVUTO: Yes, you're right about that.

Is there a sense that we're wandering, though, whether it's the president or Congress, this economy is sort of stumbling and limping along, some people argue into another slowdown or worse? Where do you stand on that?

PITTMAN: Well, you know, it's interesting.

Looking at it from just a business point of view where we have consumer products, I think the consumer doesn't feel it the same they did '08-'09. I think the businesses feel it a lot because we've got a confused policy. On one hand we say we want businesses to start up. On the other hand, there’s all this fighting about whether we should raise the capital gains, which discourages investment in new businesses.

CAVUTO: Well, Warren Buffett seems to be saying -- I don’t know if it's capital gains in particular, but in taxes in general should be raised on the well-to-do, I guess on guys like you. What do you make of that?

PITTMAN: Well, look, I'm not sure I have anything other than a personally opinion on that.

But I do think capital gains and anything that encourages people to invest money is good for us right now if they will invest money in starting businesses, taking a chance, taking a risk, because, by the way, their risk is that they’re wiped out.

CAVUTO: Right.

PITTMAN: I mean, people sort of forget, well, you have got to...

CAVUTO: But you wouldn’t be -- you wouldn't be for raising taxes in this environment?

PITTMAN: Well, you know, I think right now I’m not sure I would be doing much, other than trying to stimulate new businesses, get the consumer feeling good about spending, give them confidence that we’re not going to default, that our economy’s going to do well.

CAVUTO: Why are so many CEOs of all stripes so reluctant to spend cash, period, not -- not only sitting abroad, but here period, a record amount of cash, even with the market run-up after the gyration? So much, they’re just sitting on. Why?

PITTMAN: Well, look, I think there are different situations for different people. But I think the last downturn we had scared people because liquidity was a problem. And suddenly you found you could not get the credit you thought you had standing by.

Suddenly, you were out of your covenant on your bank because no one expected such a precipitous drop. It came back.

CAVUTO: Right. Right.

PITTMAN: But all it's got to do is drop one time, you're out of a covenant, and suddenly you're in the arms of not only bankers today, but you're in the arms of people who buy the debt from the bankers and try and take over your business by owning the debt.

So I think there are a lot of reasons why the people say, I want a little safety. The consumer's doing the same. I think we have got people who can spend money, buy things aren't buying it not because they don’t want it, not that they can’t afford it, but they’re worried, maybe I need my cash.

CAVUTO: Not so worried they still don't want a good time. You’re planning a big event, a concert in Vegas.

PITTMAN: Yes, we are.

CAVUTO: What is that going to be about?

PITTMAN: Well, we're doing the iHeartRadio Music Festival.

We have a new product coming out. Not only is it taking all our radio stations around the country. And you can get them on the Internet. You can get them on your mobile phone. But we're adding a service sort of like a Pandora, where you can create custom radio stations, but with a little more control. Our custom stations will be commercial free through the end of the year.

We’re going to launch it, officially, September 23-24. We're going to do a major concert, music event, the biggest I have done since Live 8...


PITTMAN: ... certainly once-in-a generation.

CAVUTO: That's a big deal.

PITTMAN: Lady Gaga, Kenny Chesney, Coldplay, Sting, Jay-Z, Lady -- did I say Lady Gaga? Black-Eyed Peas.

CAVUTO: Wow. I have heard of none of them, none of them.

PITTMAN: Twenty-one artists.

CAVUTO: I'm kidding. I'm kidding.

That’s great. Good for you.

PITTMAN: So come out.

CAVUTO: Very good seeing you.

PITTMAN: Come out.

CAVUTO: All right. You know, I just might. You don't want...



PITTMAN: I will -- I will walk you around. I'll take you backstage.

CAVUTO: Cool. With Lady Gaga?

PITTMAN: Whatever you want.

CAVUTO: Thank you, Bob Pittman.

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