Soros’ Station Scoop-Up

NRB | May 17, 2024 | Industry News

A familiar name in liberal activism rocked the radio world when it was reported in early 2024 that investment firm Soros Fund Management was poised to acquire around $400 million in debt from Audacy, the second-largest radio company in the nation. 

Billionaire hedge fund manager and financier George Soros is best known for his leviathan financial support of far-left politics, causes, and candidates. If the Audacy deal, which has been approved by a bankruptcy court, is approved by the FCC, Soros will become the largest shareholder in the company, which operates more than 200 radio stations throughout the United States. 

In making Soros Fund Management the majority shareholder, the plan would grant Soros-backed investment company Laurel Tree three seats on the Audacy board, which currently has eight members. The FCC is now considering whether to grant Audacy a temporary and limited waiver of the current foreign ownership limit of 25 percent.

Last month, conservative lawmakers raised concerns about the reorganization plan. In April, the Daily Caller revealed that Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-N.Y.) had called on the FCC to scrutinize the acquisition. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) wrote that “this transaction, which affects radio stations that reach millions of listeners across the U.S., including in Texas’ 21st congressional district, should — at minimum — be subject to rigorous FCC oversight to ensure U.S. radio stations are not subject to undue influence.”

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel responded to both offices on May 3 that “the Bureau staff will review the record and decide if the transfer is in the public interest pursuant to Section 310(d) of the Communications Act” and informed them of a petition to deny filed by Media Research Center (MRC), the conservative media watchdog helmed by L. Brent Bozell III.

In its petition, MRC identified issues with the “vague and undefined ‘special warrant’ process,” writing, “The Soros filings fail to demonstrate that in this case any interest in the reasonably efficient emergence from bankruptcy cannot be accommodated while also assessing the foreign ownership interests at the same time.”

Audacy responded by asking the FCC to dismiss MRC’s petition without consideration, citing it as “procedurally defective” by failing to establish standing and noting that the petition was not formally served on Audacy. The radio operator also indicated that the proposed issuance of a special warrant was not a new procedure, as precedent for such waivers had been established in a number of prior transactions as an accommodation of federal bankruptcy law. The application remains with the FCC for final consideration.

Soros’ interest in gaining control over a massive portfolio of stations is a testament to the continuing impact of traditional radio, an arena where the political left has not historically been a strong competitor against religious and right-leaning messages. By moving to take control of one of the nation’s top radio companies, Soros is acting in line with the advice of top Democrat communicators to challenge conservative radio dominance.

Despite Soros’ capacity for major influence by flooding media ventures, activism incubators, and political operations with cash, his imprint has not always been accompanied by high standards of effectiveness. 

Consider these examples: In 2019, the Soros-controlled Justice and Public Safety PAC flooded multiple Northern Virginia district attorney races with cash that resulted in a wave of profoundly inexperienced, but ideologically-aligned candidates prevailing over veteran prosecutors in the Commonwealth.

One of these Soros PAC picks was Steve Descano, current Commonwealth’s Attorney for Fairfax County. Descano has, according to the Washington Post, botched and fumbled “an unacceptable number of winnable cases” due to basic competence issues and communications blunders. Descano has blamed his poor performance on his predecessors, claiming that “it takes more than one term to undo decades of bad policy, decades of injustice.”

In Arlington County, judges became so perplexed by prosecutors’ apparent disinterest in enforcing the law that they began requiring prosecutors working under Soros-backed Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Deghani-Tafti to file a written brief justifying any decision to drop charges or enter a plea bargain. According to the Associated Press, “One of the judges… provided insight into his thinking when he rejected an argument by prosecutors that they were entitled to dismiss marijuana possession charges because they saw enforcing that law as a poor use of judicial resources.” 

If Soros subsidiaries run a similar playbook on radio—favoring ambitious ideologues over veteran broadcasters—they may find that freewheeling Soros sensibilities are a poor fit for a highly-regulated business environment. Who can forget Soros-tied, repeat FCC nominee Gigi Sohn, unsuccessful in her multiple bids for a seat on the Commission due in part to her involvement with the shuttered alternative streaming service Locast?

With a growing portfolio of financial stakes in audio, some suggest Soros’ investments are “the beginning of a bigger audio buying spree,” with future aims possibly including the purchase of publicly traded Cumulus Media. With an eye toward such serious acquisitions, it is clear that radio remains a dynamic piece on a high-stakes chessboard—and Soros is prepared to be a competitive player.

Wordpress Social Share Plugin powered by Ultimatelysocial