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FCC keeps flagging radio deals

The FCC continues to "flag" radio acquisitions that cause significant concentration of ad revenue, despite Chairman Michael Powell's effort to eliminate the backlog of merger requests created by the three-year-old policy.

Fellow Republican Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth Thursday said he believed the practice of flagging deals and designating them for public comment was to be stopped when the commission cleared the more than 60 station sales two months ago. "It may not be illegal, but it's definitely not right," he said.

Furchtgott-Roth and radio industry officials complain that the FCC never established procedures for resolving flagged deals, which left many stymied at the commission for months. "The bureau has its own secret rules about how these things are processed," Furchtgott-Roth complained to reporters.

The commission, to stem rampant concentration in the radio business, in 1998 began asking for public comment on any radio merger that led to one station controlling 50% of a market's ad revenue or two stations controlling 70%.

In order to win an en masse approval clearing the backlog of deals, Powell promised the two Democratic commissioners that flagging would continue, but could not be used to hold up mergers indefinitely, said an FCC source in reaction to Furchtgott-Roth's complaint. "You won't see any more backlogs," the source said. - Bill McConnell