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Audacy: Bozell’s MRC ‘Ill-Informed,” Asks FCC To Advance Reorg.

Audacy is asking the FCC to summarily reject a conservative group’s petition that seeks to block a change of ownership related to its Chapter 11 financial reorganization that would let liberal billionaire investor George Soros acquire a stake in the company. It calls Brent Bozell’s Media Research Center maneuver an “ill-informed attempt to impede Audacy’s reorganization.”

Bozell last month filed a petition with the FCC pointing to what he has dubbed a “Soros shortcut” in the way the foreign ownership portion of the deal is structured. Audacy has set up the transaction in a way that will allow the restructuring to be completed and maintain short-term compliance with the foreign ownership limits until it secures approval from the FCC to have indirect foreign ownership of more than 25%.

Because the multiagency review process for issues related to national security, law enforcement, foreign policy, or trade policy can take six months or more, the temporary waiver would allow Audacy to clear the FCC review process and wrap up its bankruptcy reorganization without waiting. But Bozell says because the interim step offers no assurances that the foreign owners will not try to exercise impermissible “control or influence” over the radio stations, it should be rejected.

Partisan politics may be the motivator, but Audacy makes no mention of it in the company’s response. Instead, it tells the FCC that Bozell’s objection fails to meet procedural standards and that only interested parties are permitted to file a petition to deny.

“The petition makes no mention of any members of MRC that reside in the service areas or regularly listen to any of Audacy’s stations. Indeed, the petition is entirely devoid of any allegation of injury,” Audacy says, telling the FCC that it is also missing any specific allegations for why the application would not be in the public interest. It also points out that Bozell failed to serve the petition on Audacy, as required, saying it is another reason it should be dismissed outright.

Even if the FCC were to treat the Bozell petition as an informal objection, Audacy says the allegations included in the document are “meritless” and “mischaracterizes” the waiver request. The company points out that use of the waivers fits with longstanding precedent, while the FCC’s approval process gives the agency plenty of opportunity to address foreign ownership issues.

“Audacy’s prompt emergence from bankruptcy, with substantially less debt and improved operational arrangements, is critical to the continued operation of its stations and its ability to remain a competitive radio broadcaster,” Executive VP Andrew Sutor writes in the filing.

The involvement of Soros in the Audacy reorganization has also caught the attention of some in Congress. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) wrote a letter to the FCC last month in which the San Antonio-area congressman said until the federal agencies review the deal for the usual national security, law enforcement, foreign policy, or trade policy implications, approval of the deal as structured should be on hold. “The FCC has an obligation to complete a full and thorough review of any radio station purchase of this size and magnitude,” Roy wrote in a letter to the agency.

It is not the first time conservative groups have cried foul over a Soros-backed media investment. Soros is part of the group backing Latino Media Network, and its $60 million deal to buy 18 radio stations in ten cities from TelevisaUnivision drew a lot of attention in conservative circles when it was announced. But the FCC ultimately allowed the sale to go forward.

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