The Federal Communications Commission granted the sale of Media General's WMBB (TV) Panama City, Fla., and KALB (TV) Alexandria, La., to Hoak Media, dismissing a petition to deny the deal.
Smart Media Group argued that Hoak was not fit to own a license because it still owed North Dakota Senate candidate Mark Kennedy's campaign a rebate for overcharging it for a campaign spot on its KVLY (TV) Fargo, N.D. Broadcasters are required by law to charge candidates the lowest unit rate for their ads. They argued that Hoak had not properly audited that station's records.
But Hoak pointed out that not only was the Fargo station not at issue in the license transfer, but the overcharge happened before it even owned the station.
"At best, [the petitioners] have alleged that Hoak has not properly audited the records of a station that is not part of this transaction for a time period when it was not under Hoak’s control and, therefore, has failed to issue a rebate to which they claim they are due,” the FCC said.
“Absent a tolling agreement [if the FCC had conditioned the transfer of KVLY to Hoak on resolving the lowest-unit-rate dispute], it is well established that the commission does not hold an assignee of a broadcast station responsible for conduct that has occurred prior to the date on which the assignee acquired the station,” the agency added. “We find that the applicants are fully qualified and that grant of the applications would be in the public interest.”