In a 41-page filing made in response to the FCC’s call for comments in its 2018 Quadrennial review of its media rules, iHeartMedia explains that its support for defining the market as broadcast radio, as the FCC has “repeatedly concluded” in prior reviews, is buttressed by the approach taken by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Speaking for the company, SVP/Government Affairs Jessica Martevano said, ” In reviewing the most recent significant merger in the broadcast radio industry, the Department of Justice required divestiture of station assets in the acquisition of CBS Radio by Entercom.”
In its competitive impact statement preceding entry of the Final Judgment, the Department of Justice determined that competition in local and national advertising in local radio markets (DMAs) would be harmed absent divestiture of certain local radio stations competing head to head in those markets, she wrote.
“In short, the Department of Justice used the local broadcast radio market as the benchmark for market definition,” she said.
Further, Martevano said, is that in iHeart’s view, it is the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice that is “the recognized dominant government agency dealing with issues of competition.”
In fact, she added, “The definition of the relevant market is a core responsibility of the Antitrust Division. It would promote regulatory chaos were the Commission to adopt a different market definition for purposes of the local radio ownership rules.”
That’s a potentially fatal blow to any rule changes, even as iHeart shared in the filing that it supports the NAB’s AM rule change plan while strongly condemning its FM rule change suggestions.
“Were the Commission to determine in this proceeding that the relevant market is the audio services market, as the NAB contends, it is difficult to conceive of any circumstances in which the Commission would reject or even condition any radio station merger on competition grounds,” Martevano said. “It would essentially surrender this
part of its jurisdiction to the Department of Justice.”
That result, iHeart concluded, “is inconsistent with the statutory scheme established by the Congress and with the Commission’s interest as a regulator.”
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