Marshall Broadcasting Group (MBG), which is owned by Pluria Marshall, has filed a complaint against Nexstar at the FCC. It already filed suit against the broadcaster earlier this year in a New York State Supreme Court alleging breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation over TV stations Nexstar sold to Marshall.
Nexstar has said Marshall's allegations are "spurious and without merit."
Marshall's allegations in the FCC complaint, which mirror those in the law suit, are that Nexstar's actions represent a "calculated conspiracy" to dupe government officials, sabotage Marshall's operations and circumvent federal guidelines governing the business relationship between the two companies."
The Marshall stations at issue in the complaint are KPEJ-TV Odessa, Texas; KMSS-TV Shreveport, La.; and KLJB-TV Davenport, Iowa, which Nexstar spun off to Marshall in 2013-2014 as part of deals to buy stations from Communications Corporation of America (CCA), White Knight Broadcasting, and Grant Broadcasting and in order to comply with local ownership rules.
At the time, Nexstar chairman Perry Sook called the Grant deal "a model to increase media ownership diversity."
In happier times, Marshall had called the spin-off of KLJB "a great day for Americans, minorities, MBG and Nexstar."
But these are not happier times. Marshall says the FCC should investigate "Nexstar's continued qualifications to be a licensee of televisions stations in the U.S."
The suit and complaint come as Nexstar attempts to get its multi-billion purchase of Tribune TV stations approved by the Justice Department and FCC, including by spinning off stations to diverse ownership, so it is not looking for any legal or regulatory overhang that could complicate that deal.
"While there are some troubling issues in dispute here, broadcasters have enough problems with tech and cable competitors, STELAR, and ownership regulations than to be re-enacting David vs. Goliath," said Adonis Hoffman, chairman of Business in the Public Interest and former chief of staff to then FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn. "These are both respected companies, whose CEOs are industry leaders. I encourage them to find a way to resolve their differences soon and move on. After all, no matter who wins, this is a lose-lose for the industry whatever the outcome."
Hoffman has provided research services to both Nexstar and Marshall.