Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. remains under orders to divest local marketing
agreements in four markets after federal judges Tuesday denied the company's
request to rehear an April court decision upholding a Federal Communications
Commission rule attributing LMAs toward a broadcaster's local ownership tally.
The court also allowed the FCC to deny grandfathering rights to LMAs established
after November 1996. Under that reasoning, Sinclair would be forced to unwind LMAs
in Columbus and Dayton, Ohio; Charleston, S.C.; and Charleston, W. Va.
The earlier court ruling -- issued by a three-judge panel of the Federal
Appeals Court in Washington, D.C. -- was a victory for broadcasters in general because it
struck down the "eight-voice test" limiting duopolies to markets where eight
separately owned stations would remain. The broadcast industry said duopolies
are needed in small markets, where financially strapped stations would benefit
by combining much of their operations.
The FCC is considering new local ownership limits for TV as part of a larger
proceeding regarding a variety of industry ownership restrictions. New rules are
expected by spring.
LMAs allow companies to own one station in a market and
operate another under contract. Ownership of two stations in a market was banned
until 1999, when the FCC approved duopolies that passed the voice test.
A Sinclair attorney would not comment on Tuesday's