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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).
PRESS STATEMENT OF COMMISSIONER GLORIA TRISTANI
Re: Application for Radio License Transfer in Rockford, Illinois from Salter Broadcasting to RadioWorks, Inc.
The Mass Media Bureau has granted a license transfer of WRWC(FM) that will
permit two entities to control a staggering 94.9% of the market revenue in Rockford,
Illinois. With this transfer, RadioWorks' market share jumps from 35.2% to 49.8%,
creating a duopoly with Cumulus (45.1% market share). I have serious doubts that this level
of concentration of the public airwaves is in the public interest.|
I am at a loss as to why the Bureau is taking this action. Unlike some cases, in which the Bureau has approved high levels of concentration because they involved only the transfer of an existing station combination from one entity to another, this case involves adding a substantial amount of new concentration to the market. More importantly, this increased concentration effectively eliminates the possibility that a third competitor could enter the Rockford market. After today, Rockford will be relegated to a duopoly, making it significantly more likely that the two remaining competitors can engage in price discrimination and collusive behavior. Indeed, in our recent cable horizontal ownership proceeding, we set a 30% ownership limit based on the increased risk of coordinated action by two entities compared to groups of three or more.1
Instead of simply granting the license transfer, I would have considered other options -- e.g., a showing that the Rockford market cannot support three competitors, so that selling to RadioWorks was the only realistic option. Was WRWC(FM) losing money? Did the current owner attempt to find other buyers? To my knowledge, the questions were never asked. As a result, we may never know if the creation of a duopoly in Rockford was inevitable, or simply another case of regulatory malpractice by the FCC.
1. Third Report and Order, MM Docket 92-264, para. 47 (rel. October 20, 1999).