An Australian couple now based in Alaska has bought more than two dozen radio stations in three states, marking the first time federal regulators have allowed full foreign ownership of US radio stations. The FCC recently approved a request by Richard and Sharon Burns through their company Frontier Media to increase their interest in 29 radio stations in Alaska, Texas, and Arkansas from 20% to 100%, the AP reports. The agency long took what some viewed as a hard line in limiting foreign ownership under a 1930s law that harkened to wartime propaganda fears. But in 2013, it acknowledged a willingness to ease up after broadcasters complained the rules were too restrictive of outside investment.
The Burnses are citizens of Australia but have lived and worked in the US since 2006 on special visas offered for Australians. A family who owned six of the Alaska stations provided the opportunity that brought the couple to the US. The family wanted someone with international experience to operate the stations and help move the company forward, Richard Burns says. The stations in the Lower 48 were purchased later. Richard Burns, who serves on the board of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce and in 2010 was named its citizen of the year, says he and his wife consider Alaska home and are pursuing US citizenship. "Our life is here in Juneau, Alaska, every single day," said Burns, who in 2010 was named its citizen of the year. (Read more radio stories.)