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In the Matter of the Applications of Shareholders of AMFM, Inc. and Clear Channel Communications, Inc., for Consent to Transfer of Control of AMFM Texas Licenses Limited Partnership, et al.

Consolidation among radio broadcasters following passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act has resulted in ownership concentrations in local markets unknown since the inception of broadcast radio. I have written previously about my concerns arising from particular transactions, and concerns arising from the structure and application of our rules. (1) While our statutory obligation to ensure the public interest is served by all transfers of a broadcast license remains unchanged by the 1996 Act, there are no longer any limits on the number of stations that one entity may own across the nation. (2)

I write separately today to voice my growing belief that mergers like this one present concentration issues that simply are not cognizable by looking only at each individual local market. When a merger produces a single owner of almost one thousand radio stations across the country, evaluating its impact through a town-by-town framework fails to measure the overall impact on the diversity of voices in the marketplace of ideas, as well as its complete fiscal impact on advertisers and listeners. This unduly narrow framework also fails to measure the loss to localism when a single owner selects the format for hundreds of stations.

There is no doubt that a diversity of voices on the public's airwaves is vital to our democracy. (3) Just as the strongest fabrics are woven of many tiny, interlocking threads, each of which alone is unable to sustain the strength of the whole, radio listeners must be able to weave their local fabric with many, diverse threads. Our obligation to protect the public's interest should include submission and review of evidence of a merger's overall impact on that societal fabric.

The instant merger implicates these larger facets of the public's interest. However, here the absence of a fully developed factual record upon which to base our review limited our analysis. I look forward, through our upcoming rulemaking, to working with my fellow commissioners to rework our merger review framework to more completely determine the public interest at stake in such mergers.

1     See, e.g., Press Statement of Commissioner Gloria Tristani re: Mass Media Bureau Approval of Radio License Transfers in Youngstown-Warren, Ohio and Lafayette, Louisiana (March 20, 2000); Press Statement of Commissioner Gloria Tristani re: Applications for Radio License Transfers in Augusta-Waterville, Maine (rel. Feb. 28, 2000); Press Statement of Commissioner Gloria Tristani re: Mass Media Bureau's granting of applications to transfer radio licenses from Fuller-Jeffrey Broadcasting to Citadel Broadcasting in Portland, Maine (rel. Aug. 19, 1999); Dissenting Statement of Commissioners Susan Ness and Gloria Tristani, In re Applications of Pine Bluff Radio, Inc. and Seark Radio, Inc. File Nos. BAL-970103EA, BALH-970103EB, BALH-970103EC (rel. April 12, 1999); Joint Statement of Commissioners Susan Ness and Gloria Tristani, In re Station KBYB(FM), El Dorado, Arkansas, 13 FCC Rcd 15685 (1998).

2     Compare, e.g., Broadcast Ownership Rules, Report and Order, 100 FCC 2nd 17 (1984)(proposing to eliminate national ownership caps) with Memorandum Opinion and Order, 100 FCC 2 74, 77 (retaining national ownership caps on reconsideration)

3     See, e.g., Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. 257 (1996) (noting that one of the "policies and purposes" of the Communications Act favors a "diversity of media voices"); Metro Broadcasting, Inc. v. FCC, 497 U.S. 547, 567 (1990) ("Safeguarding the public's right to receive a diversity of views and information over the airwaves is therefore an integral component of the FCC's mission"); Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. FCC, 512 U.S. 622, 663 (1994) ("[I]t has long been a basic tenet of national communications policy that the widest dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public." (quoting United States v. Midwest Video Corp., 406 U.S. 649, 668 n. 27 (quoting Associated Press v. United States, 326 U.S. 1, 20(1945))).