A check of the FCC’s online TV station database late, late Wednesday–and who doesn’t compulsively check FCC databases in the middle of the night–revealed a “granted” under the call sign for Allbritton’s WJLA-TV Washington. I checked another Allbritton call sign, then another. All said “granted,” and when I checked further, they proved to be grants of license transfers for all the stations, all dated Aug. 7, 2013.
“What!” I exclaimed, spilling my hot Ovaltine all over the cat.
For a moment I thought the FCC had quietly approved the Sinclair deal in what would have been record time and without even giving folks the right to petition the government for redress of their grievances, if they had any, or otherwise weigh in on the nearly billion-dollar deal that would give Sinclair Allbritton’s Washington flagship station, WJLA, as well as its NewsChannel 8 regional cable net.
Visions of headlines about “LACK OF TRANSPARENCY,” and “MIDNIGHT DEALMAKING “danced in my head. But when I threw up the sash, as it were, a far more mundane site greeted my wondering eyes. Sigh.
A closer look–darn those closer looks–revealed the transfers were from former station owner Joe Allbritton, who died last December, to his estate.
A spokesman for Allbritton confirmed Thursday morning that it was essentially a pro forma transfer not related to the Sinclair deal, although it is related in the sense that it probably has to happen before the licenses can be transferred to David Smith and company.