The FCC yesterday issued a Declaratory Ruling approving the acquisition by a company owned by two Mexican citizens of 100% of the ownership interest of a company that owns two radio stations in California and Arizona. Currently, the company owned by the Mexican citizens had only a 25% interest in the parent company of the licensee which, until a few years ago, would have been the limit imposed on foreign ownership of a US broadcast station. But, several years ago, as we wrote here, the FCC decided to permit, on a case by case basis, greater foreign ownership of US broadcast station owners. The FCC has also issued guidance on how public US companies can track their foreign ownership. See our articles here and here. Through yesterday’s decision approving the 100% ownership of the radio company, together with a case last year approving 100% ownership of broadcast stations in Alaska and Texas by Australian citizens (see our summary here), the Commission has demonstrated that it is serious about, in the right circumstances, approving foreign ownership of US broadcast stations.
Foreign ownership does not come without limits, however. Any foreign owner seeking to acquire a substantial stake in a US broadcast station must be reviewed by various Executive Branch agencies to insure that there are no perceived security risks raised by the proposed acquisition. The FCC has to do its own review as well. And, once approved, the foreign owner must report on any changes in its ownership so that new interest holders can go through the same approval process. Nevertheless, this series of decisions make clear that the FCC is open to non-US investors acquiring broadcast properties. It may take longer to sell a station than when a property is acquired by a US buyer, and certain foreign buyers may not be allowed if security issues come up, but otherwise the market is open to many new buyers of broadcast stations.