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Broadcasters fret stalled radio mergers - Broadcasting & Cable

Broadcasters fret stalled radio mergers

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Several major broadcasters are waiting to find out if their proposed radio
mergers will be approved or designated for a lengthy and expensive round of
hearings before the Federal Communications Commission's administrative law
judge.

Clear Channel Communications Inc., Cumulus Media Inc. and Nassau Broadcasting
Partners L.P. are among the station groups with deals stalled by the FCC for
more than one year under a controversial practice aimed at preventing undue
concentration in local markets.

In November, FCC commissioners approved sales of 62 radio stations, clearing
most of a backlog of license transfers caused by the so-called flagging policy,
which subjected deals to added scrutiny when they would place the majority of a
market's ad revenue with one or two owners.

For five deals pending more than one year that the commissioners could not
resolve, the agency's Mass Media Bureau was ordered by Friday, Feb. 8, either to
recommend their approval or urge their review before an FCC judge.

Affected markets are said to be Charlottesville, Va.; Columbus, Ga.;
Cheyenne, Wyo.; Trenton, N.J.; and Starkville, Miss.

Many in the industry say the FCC wants to designate at least one deal for
hearing because it has no clear policy for ruling on flagged mergers and a
judge's ruling could go a long way toward setting consistent guidelines.

Sources said FCC staffers are tight-lipped about which, if any, deals will be
selected.

The reason for the secrecy: Plans to order a judge to review Anderson
Broadcasting's sale of five North Dakota stations to Cumulus in 2000 fell apart
when the companies got wind of the idea and canceled their
deal.

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