The FCC seems to be having a numbers problem.
Earlier this week it was the flap over the figures the commission cited for possibly reregulating cable, the 70/70 gauge shotgun that the commission tried to use to get cable over the regulatory threshhold, the payoff being potential a la carte blanche, as it were, to impose a host of new restrictions on cable (OK, I have gotten those phrase-turns out of the way).
Then Thursday night, the FCC released the order approving the Clear Channel station sale to Newport (Providence Equity Partners) citing a sales figure of a whopping $13.7 billion.
I even dutifully recorded the figure, including "a whopping" in a story on the sale and was ready to hit the "send" button that would have relayed that figure to my peeps in media land when I started thinking about the size of the price. It was for 35 TV stations plus translators and low powers. They would all have to have been in the top 10 markets to command that price, I thought, then checked an earlier story of ours and found a figure closer to $1.3 billion.
I assumed our figure was correct, but remebered that old chalk-board diagram of what "assume" means. I chose instead to withhold any figure until I could check it out. Sure enough, the FCC later sent out a note to point out that the figure should have been $1.255 billion.
By the By, a senior adviser to Providence, which also has stakes in Freedom Communications and Univision and has sought numerous extensions from the FCC to come into compliance with the newspaper/broadcast crossownership ban in a number of markets is none other than Michael Powell, the former FCC chairman who tried to get rid of the ban.
Powell’s successor, Kevin Martin, is looking to loosen the ban as well, but has run into heavy fire from the Hill.