Court clears PBS station shift to commercial status

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A New York public broadcaster gained a step in its plan to sell the weakest of its two Buffalo stations after federal judges last week upheld a two-year-old FCC ruling allowing a switch in the noncommercial designation of WNEQ-TV channel 23 to WNED channel 17.

WNED is a commercial allotted station that WNYPB also operates as a public broadcaster. The transfer is key to WNYPB's plans to sell WNEQ to LIN Television. The sale is intended to raise funds for WNED's digital conversion. WNED has the strongest signal of WNYPB's Buffalo stations, offers more programming and has the largest audience.

Advocacy groups seeking to keep two noncommercial stations in the city oppose the switch. The judges ruled that the FCC is under no obligation to preserve two public stations in a market if one of those channels was voluntarily operated as non-commercial. WNEQ's sale to LIN still is under FCC review. - Bill McConnell

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