New Rules Don't Favor More Consolidations in Some Radio Markets

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WASHINGTON ( -- The Federal Communication Commission's proposed new media consolidation rules could shut the door on radio station consolidations in smaller markets, an agency commissioner pointed out today.

The new revelation came as FCC commissioners prepare for their June 2 vote to decide whether to loosen the current rules restricting the number of media outlets that can be owned by any single company in a given market.

Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy, a Republican,

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today explained that although the new rules would allow generally greater consolidation for newspapers and TV companies, rules for radio might not favor further consolidation. In some smaller markets, she said, a single media company already controls much of the total radio ad market.

Clear Channel
Still undecided, she said, is whether the FCC will require some companies -- she specifically mentioned Clear Channel Communications -- to divest stations in some areas.

Current FCC rules base the number of stations any one company can own in a market on the total number of stations in a market. There has been confusion, however, about how to define a market.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., yesterday complained to a Senate hearing that the FCC's inexact definitions have resulted in all five radio stations in Minot being owned by a single company. The FCC includes the stations in the larger Bismarck market, though the two cities are actually in separate markets.

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Ms. Abernathy said the FCC is looking at the possibility of using Arbitron definitions or other market definitions, rather than looking strictly at signal contours.

Ms. Abernathy also said the FCC will base what kind of consolidation it will allow in all media markets on a "diversity index," with newspapers and cable and broadcast stations all included in the index, though media that could provide local information will get heavier weight.

Two Democratic members of the commission have asked the commission's vote be delayed a month, but Ms. Abernathy and a second GOP member, Kevin J. Martin, today opposed the delay. Chairman Michael Powell hasn't yet said if he will agree to the delay. Today a number of congressmen wrote a letter to Mr. Powell urging a delay.

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