Powell talks tough against mergers

Federal Communication Commission chairman Michael Powell might have gone a
little overboard last week touting the commission's efforts to slow the
radio-merger wave during his tenure.

"Under my leadership, we have moved to block a number of radio transactions
[seven], and previous commissions never moved to block a single one," he told
senators anxious about media deregulation.

This was technically true, but it was his predecessor, William Kennard, who
established the controversial policy of "flagging" radio deals that create heavy
amounts of ad-revenue concentration in local radio markets.

Using that policy, Powell's staff recommended blocking seven mergers and
ordered them to undergo judicial review.

Kennard's FCC arguably was much tougher, though, because it stalled more than
100 radio mergers by flagging those deals and subjecting them to lengthy rounds
of public comment and review.

Kennard refused to act on scores of deals for which hearings could not be
justified -- a strategy that the industry complained was illegal and led several
impatient owners to scrap acquisition plans.