The Association for Local Television Stations' board of directors last week voted to fold the organization, a move the industry has been waiting for since most of the group's TV-station members have been swallowed up by larger corporations.
The board now has to decide what to do with the approximately $1 million left in its coffers and how long that task will take.
ALTV was formed as the Association of Independent Television Stations in 1972 to speak for independent stations. As they disappeared, particularly after the 1993 demise of FCC rules barring broadcast nets from owning their own prime time programming, the group saw it needed a new constituency. Thus, ALTV was reborn in 1996, primarily representing Fox, The WB, UPN and Pax. President Jim Hedlund assumed the top job in 1990, succeeding Preston Padden, now head of Disney's government relations office.
The death watch began when Viacom bought CBS, taking the Paramount Stations Group's 19 stations, then intensified when News Corp. bought Chris-Craft's 10 stations last summer. Those groups exited ALTV. Earlier in 2001, Sinclair Broadcasting Group dropped out.
Only Tribune and Paxson remained large members, not enough to sustain it.
ALTV was an important counterpoint to the National Association of Broadcasters. It pushed hard for satellite carriage of all local broadcast stations—the so-called "carry one, carry all" doctrine. ALTV also fought to loosen the FCC's duopoly rules, ironically abetting its downfall: Once large corporations could own more than one TV station in a market, consolidation quickened.