The FCC said Thursday it would allow NBC Universal's Telemundo station KPHZ Holbrook, Ariz., to relocate to Phoenix, saying it would create needed competition to Univision in the top 10 Hispanic market.
In an unusual move, Telemundo will swap its Holbrook channel (ch. 11) for that of noncommercial KDTP Phoenix (ch. 39), effectively dereserving one of the two Phoenix channels reserved for noncommercial broadcasting.
In addition to getting the Holbrook channel to deliver noncom programming to a population of 4,917, KDTP owner CTE will get Telemundo's Class A low power in Phoenix, KDRX-CA, so it can continue to serve that market with noncom programming.
Univision, which owns KTVW, the other major Spanish-language station in Phoenix (there are three low-power Spanish language stations there, including KDRX), opposed the waiver of the FCC's policy "disfavoring dereservation," saying KDRX was competition enough, given its 3 million viewer reach via cable (Telemundo said that advertisers aren't as eager to advertise on a low power).
The FCC will only dereserve noncom channels in special circumstances.
In this case, Telemundo pointed out that KPHZ was not making money and that it would have to shut it down. It also pointed out that the Spanish-language station in Holbrook was not reaching a large potential market in Phoenix that would be better served by having a competing full-power station.
The move leaves Holbrook with no commercial station, but the FCC concluded: "We find that this detriment is outweighed by the benefit of preserving Holbrook’s sole local television transmission service, the opportunity to foster local and national Spanish-language network competition, and to expand and improve local programming in Phoenix."
The FCC also noted the reach disparity between Univision and Telemundo, saying: "In the eight major markets where Univision and Telemundo compete directly, Univision serves anywhere from two to three times more viewers than Telemundo. Although there are many possible reasons for this disparity, we believe we should, where possible, eliminate facilities-based disadvantages so as to facilitate competition based on the merits of program services."
Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps saw the move as justified because it promoted competition in Spanish-language.
"Over the past few years, we have seen consolidation in Spanish-language media taken to new and threatening heights. Today’s decision should promote at least somewhat greater diversity and competition for those who receive their news and entertainment in Spanish in one of the largest Hispanic markets in the country.