To the delight of radio broadcasters -- and the chagrin of Commissioner Gloria Tristani -- the Federal Communications Commission this week cleared up about 75 percent of backlogged radio deals by approving license transfers for 32 deals involving 64 radio stations in 26 markets.
Some of the transactions had lingered in the FCC pipeline since 1998.
The deals had been "flagged" because they would give buyers more than a 50 percent revenue share, even though they complied with FCC ownership rules, and Chairman Michael Powell couldn't justify further delay.
"The Bureau found that based on existing rules and Commission precedent, these cases did not warrant further delay," said Powell in a statement.
The ruling benefits several group owners, including Clear Channel Communications, the largest U.S. radio group, with seven deals cleared, and Cumulus Media, with 21 deals.
Tristani, a relentless critic of rules allowing "an unprecedented increase in market power concentration," issued a harsh dissent contending that all the transactions should have gone to hearings.
"This commission has departed without reason from its prior standards and has set the public interest adrift on uncharted seas," Tristani said.
Powel said the Commission will have a chance to review the local ownership limits, established by Congress in the Telecommunications Act, during rulemaking proceedings to define radio markets.
"To the extent that the Commission's existing rules for demanding the size and the number of stations that count toward the cap has led to higher levels of ownership than Congress intended, we will fix that problem," he said.