The Competition & Markets Authority has published the preliminary findings of the second phase of its investigation into Bauer Media’s acquisition of a raft of local radio stations, citing ongoing competition concerns.
This prompted an initial investigation by the CMA in May and, after that uncovered concerns, a second-phase investigation began in August.
The CMA said that, following phase two, it continued to have concerns about the impact of the acquisitions on the future viability of First Radio Sales, a company that provides more than 100 independent local radio stations with sales representation to national advertisers.
Should FRS shut down, the CMA said, local stations would have to seek sales representation from Bauer or Global – something that could reduce competition and lead them to paying higher commission rates.
The CMA said it also had concerns about Bauer's acquisition of Wireless’s Signal 107 station, meaning it owns the only two stations that offer local advertising specifically targeted at the Wolverhampton area.
"This lack of choice could result in advertisers wishing to promote their products to a Wolverhampton audience facing higher prices for ad slots," the CMA said in its preliminary findings.
The CMA said it is now seeking views on the provisional findings before publishing its final decision on 17 March.
A Bauer spokesperson said: "We note the CMA’s findings. We firmly believe that these transactions are pro-competitive and will benefit both the acquired stations and the broader local commercial radio industry as we look to invest in the radio industry’s digital future.
"Our focus now is on agreeing a route forward with the CMA that supports a strong and sustainable future for the local commercial radio sector."