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Clear Channel Drops Stalled Deals, for Now?

Clear Channel Communications Inc. has quietly given up on four radio acquisitions the Federal Communications Commission had slated for lengthy and expensive reviews. The commission "flagged" the mergers for concentrating ad revenue in their markets.

The policy, abandoned in June, once bogged down scores of radio mergers and was a sore point with broadcasters when it was established in 1998. The industry complained because the FCC waited years before deciding how to resolve affected deals.

Many purchases were delayed by the policy, which extended public comment when one company would control 50% of a market’s ad dollars or two companies would control 75%.

The policy was imposed by former FCC Chairman William Kennard to stem the tidal wave of consolidation after Congress removed national radio-ownership limits in 1996. Although many mergers were delayed, only industry leader Clear Channel was actually ordered to subject deals to an FCC judge. The reviews were ordered for buys in Nolanville, Texas; Charlotte, Va.; Youngstown, Ohio; and Skowhegan, Maine.

With the policy abandoned, some in Washington speculate that Clear Channel will simply resubmit new applications after the pending ones are formally dismissed. Clear Channel officials did not comment by deadline.