Today, in theory, a radio or TV station can have no more than 20% of it owned by non citizens and a radio holding company can be no more than 25% owned by foreigners. In no case can a foreign government own or provide programming. (Unless it is the BBC on Public Radio or Current TV on cable)
The rule itself is becoming fairly pointless as more and more radio stations are funded by debt funneled through private equity firms and the stock is just a formality. Who really “owns” Clear Channel? At least when it went private, Deutsche Bank and two other European banks were in the 5 bank syndicate.
Back in the Reagan area, they did actually enforce this rule. Univision was determined to be defacto owned by Mexicans, and the owners had to sell it – to of all people the Hallmark Greeting Card company, which shortly thereafter declared bankruptcy.
All that may be interesting history, but the connection is the FCC chairman’s reason for putting this topic in play is he thinks relaxing the rule would promote more minority ownership. Let’s see… Who might he be referring to? Russians? Chinese? Kenyans? Mexicans?
Carlos Slim is smiling today. All those AM radio towers will work great for his Tracfone cell phone customers. Don’t look for a story about this in the New York Times, which is now owned 12.5% by the richest man in the world.