By enacting the Telecommunications Act of 19961, Congress mandated large-scale deregulation of the television, radio, telecommunications and cable industries. Having successfully de-regulated the airline, interstate transportation and energy industries, Congress sought to dismantle the tangled legal, administrative and regulatory structure that had governed broadcast media and telecommunications for decades and replace it with a competitive model. Its goal was to minimize the inefficiencies inherent in any regulatory scheme and allow participants to reap the economic benefits of the free market. Equally important, Congress wanted to be sure that the emerging cable, satellite and cellular technologies were not stifled by the incumbent regulatory structure, which many viewed as outmoded and ill-suited to the marketplace of the 21st century. To assure that competition would be preserved in the absence of regulation, Congress made clear that antitrust law principles would govern this newly deregulated market.
Nowhere has the impact of the Telecommunications Act been more dramatic than in the radio field. The Act unleashed a merger wave which has dramatically altered the competitive landscape in radio. That merger wave has certainly benefited many station owners by permitting them to capture economies of scale that simply could not have been achieved under a regulatory regime which limited the number of stations any entity could own.