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FCC Broadens Deal Review Process; Sets Up Interim Policy

FCC Broadens Deal Review Process; Sets Up Interim Policy

The FCC has stepped up efforts to re-define radio markets for the purposes of reviewing proposed transactions. The effort, begun about a year ago, has now progressed to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
The review of the policies governing multiple station ownership in a market has also expanded to the point where the commission has now raised the question of whether local ownership limits should be changed in light of consolidation. The FCC is asking for comments on this and again on its criteria for merger reviews, including a deal’s potential effect on competition and diversity.
Commission Chairman Michael Powell called the way the FCC has been “flagging” some radio transactions and letting them languish unresolved for months a “quagmire” and said it was “regrettable” there’s been no clarification of how merger review decisions are made.
The FCC began flagging certain radio deals in 1998 in an effort to organize what had become a heavy transaction review workload for its employees following the ’96 Telecom Act.
Thursday, the commission voted to speed up pending deal reviews.
Mass Media Bureau Deputy Bureau Chief Robert Ratcliffe told Radio World Online applications that raise competitive questions will still be flagged, but will be handled more quickly. He said, “If you file an application…and if it is granted, would result in a single owner controlling 50% or more of the radio ad revenue in your market, that would cause your application to be flagged.” If granted as proposed, a transaction would result in two owners controlling 70% or more of the radio ad revenue in a market, that deal would also be subject to heavier scrutiny.
To help clear a backlog of pending deals before the rulemaking is finished, the commissioners voted to clear transactions that have been unresolved for a year (8 deals) within the next 90 days.