FCC OKs Clear Channel, Sirius/XM Up In Air

A few weeks after everyone said it's a done deal, it's actually a done deal: The Federal Communications Commission approved the $20 billion sale of Clear Channel Communications to two private-equity firms.

Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners will take the company private by buying a controlling interest from other investors for $37.60 per share--a roughly 11% premium over the closing price of $33.80 on Friday. Per the terms of the deal, Clear Channel's current shareholders will be allowed to retain up to 30% of the company's stock.

The FCC decision also allows Clear Channel Radio to go ahead with the sale of 42 more radio stations as part of its ongoing divestment of about 450 stations in small and mid-sized markets.

In typical Washington fashion, while giving their approval to the deal, the two Democrats on the FCC also voiced their disapproval, criticizing the FCC's leadership for failing to investigate it more rigorously. Michael Copps said the commission should have looked into the effect of private-equity ownership of media on the public interest, while Jonathan Adelstein thought the agency needed to investigate Clear Channel's domination of individual markets.

Radio's other big deal--the proposed merger of satcasters Sirius and XM--is still awaiting regulatory approval. Opponents like the National Association of Broadcasters, representing terrestrial radio stations, continue to attack the merger as a would-be monopoly. Currently, the proposal is being considered by both the FCC and a Senate anti-trust committee. A decision is expected from the FCC by the end of the first quarter.

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