On February 8, 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Section 202 of the 1996 Act eliminated limits the FCC had previously placed on the number of radio stations a single entity could own nationally. It also significantly relaxed limits the FCC had placed on ownership of radio stations in a local market. On March 7, 1996, the FCC implemented these provisions of the 1996 Telecom Act by revising Section 73.3555 of our Rules (47 C.F.R. §73.3555) to eliminate the national multiple radio ownership rule and relax the local ownership rule.
On March 13, 1998, the Mass Media Bureau Policy and Rules Division released the "Review of the Radio Industry, 1997" ("1997 Radio Review") examining changes in various aspects of the commercial broadcast radio industry as a result of the implementation of these provisions of the Telecom Act. That report covered a period of 20 months from March 1996 through November 1997. It indicated a trend toward consolidation of radio station ownership resulting in fewer owners at both the national and local levels. This report provides an update of the impact of the Telecom Act through March 2000.
Overall, there has been an increase in the number of commercial radio stations of 5.1 percent between March 1996 and March 2000. The number of radio owners declined by 22 percent during the same period. This decline is primarily due to mergers between existing owners. As explained in the body of the report, the decline in the number of radio owners nationally and locally reflected in the report may be understated due to limitations in the data used to compile the report. Over the same period, there has also been an increase in the size of the largest radio group owners. In 1996, the two largest radio group owners consisted of less than 65 radio stations each. As of March 2000, the two largest radio group owners consisted of more than 440 radio stations each. By the end of 2000, the two largest radio groups merged, so that now Clear Channel Communications owns over 1,000 radio stations, and the second largest group owner has approximately 200 stations.
At the local level, there continues to be a downward trend in the number of radio station owners in Arbitron Metro markets. Further, the top owners in each Metro market generally