FCC Grants Tribune Waivers
Permanent in Chicago; temporary in New York, Los Angeles, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale and Hartford-New Haven
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/16/2012 3:35:51 PM
The temporary waivers are for one year, after which the company can apply for new waivers.
The move, along with the FCC's expected denial of a separate petition to review the permanent waiver in Chicago, clears the way for the transfer of the station licenses and the emergence of the company from bankruptcy.
The commission also granted Tribune a failing station waiver in Hartford, a satellite waiver in Indianapolis, and pointed specifically to easing the company out of bankruptcy in the order granting the waivers. In fact, it said it granted the temporary waivers "to facilitate an orderly disposition of these assets from bankruptcy."
The FCC was essentially extending the permanent and temporary waivers it granted in 2007 to allow the sale of the company and its station licenses to the Zell Group.
The waivers allow for the continued common ownership of:
KTLA(TV) Los Angeles and the LA Times;
WPIX(TV) New York and Newsday;
WSFL(TV) Miami and the Fort Lauderdale South Florida Sun-Sentinel;
WGN-TV and WGN(AM) Chicago and The Chicago Tribune; and
WTIC-TV, Hartford, Connecticut; WCCT-TV Waterbury, Connecticut, and the Hartford Courant.
In denying making the temporary waivers permanent, the FCC said there was a "heavy burden for a party requesting a permanent waiver," and Tribune's arguments did not clear that hurdle. Among the FCC's reasons: Tribune knew the combos were noncompliant when it acquired the properties and it did not demonstrate changed circumstances that should compel "a different result."
But the FCC also pointed out that Tribune can reapply for permanent waivers "if" the FCC adopts new ownership rules, which it is expected to do soon. The chairman has proposed loosening the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rules in the top 20 TV markets, which would mean that the combos in New York, LA and Miami-Fort Lauderdale, all in the top 20, would be presumptively in the public interest, while Hartford at market No. 30 could have a tougher time.
As B&C/Multichannel News reported, the bureau said it would deal with the petitions to deny the Chicago permanent waiver in a separate item. The chairman has circulated an item effectively denying those petitions, according to sources familiar with the item. The petitioners, which included the Teamsters and public activist groups, had argued the waiver decision should be held in abeyance until their reconsideration petition was resolved, but the FCC disagreed. "Tribune must accept the risk that the Commission or court could reverse the Commission's grant of the applications."
The court, perhaps, but the chairman almost certainly has the votes on his proposal to deny those petitions, even if they had to come from the two Republicans on the panel.
"I am pleased that the long-standing Tribune matter is moving forward," said commissioner Robert McDowell. "The Media Bureau is correct to refresh Tribune's waivers of the obsolete newspaper/broadcast cross ownership ban."
McDowell put in a plug for scrapping the ban entirely and, in the interim, for granting temporary, not permanent waivers.
"The outdated ban itself should be eliminated because the record indicates that it is likely undermining the public interest on several levels," he said in a statement. "Furthermore, the ban is more than likely an unconstitutional limitation on speech by restricting speakers' access only to those platforms favored by the government. If this encroachment on First Amendment rights ever made sense in 1975 when it was codified, it no longer does in the face of today's highly competitive, dynamic and fragmented media market place. Accordingly, no rules should exist to which waivers need to be granted. In that spirit, while such rules still reside on our books, the Commission should grant waivers permanently and not in miniscule one-year segments that require speakers to crawl back to the government for permission to speak."
Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai was happy with the decision, though he said agreed the bureau should have given Tribune permanent waivers in all markets given the state of the newspapers and their willingness to continue to publish them. He also signaled he thought the commission would likely adopt the quadrennial media ownership rule review order circulated by the chairman Nov. 14. That order would loosen the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rules to allow for combos in the top 20 markets, or at least make them presumptively in the public interest and put the onus on critics to prove they were not.
"While my preference would have been for the Media Bureau to grant the Tribune Company permanent waivers from the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule in the New York, Los Angeles, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, and Hartford-New Haven markets," he said in a statement, "I am nonetheless pleased with today's Order, he said. "It facilitates the company's exit from bankruptcy, grants Tribune a permanent waiver in the Chicago market, and allows the company to maintain its newspaper/broadcast combinations in the four other markets so that they may be examined under the new rule we are likely to adopt later this year. Given the financial conditions confronting the newspaper industry, we should be applauding companies that continue to operate daily newspapers rather than saddling them with artificial and outdated regulatory burdens."
Tribune Co. still holds a minority interest in Newsday, thus the reason why Tribune went to the trouble of obtaining the cross-ownership waiver for the New York market.
PaulJC - 11/19/2012 4:07:54 PM EST
Newsday - 11/16/2012 7:54:03 PM EST
No related content found.
Most Popular Pages
No Top Articles