Public TV advocates are hoping a recent court decision will improve odds of blocking LIN Television's bid to buy one of Buffalo's two non-commercial TV stations.
The Coalition for Noncommercial Broadcasting is asking the FCC to stop the deal and says a July 3 decision by federal appeals judges in Washington nullifying portions of the agency's channel auctioning helps their cause. By throwing out rules requiring public stations to bid for channels located on the commercial portion of the spectrum band, the court obligated the commission to protect public stations located outside the bloc of frequencies reserved for non-commercial stations.
Although the FCC and the same court already approved the Western New York Public Broadcasting Association's plan to sell one of its stations, the specific transfer to LIN must still be approved and the noncommercial coalition is waging a last-ditch effort to get commission to review the case. WNYPB plans to sell the weaker of its two Buffalo stations and switch the non-commercial designation of WNEQ-TV channel 23 to WNED-TV 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. LIN is currently programming WNEQ as WNLO-TV under a local marketing agreement with WNYPB. WNED has the strongest signal of WNYPB's Buffalo stations, offers more programming and has the largest audience.
The judges ruled in June 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. - Bill McConnell