Media General Inc. wants a permanent waiver that will allow it to own both TV station WBTW Florence, S.C., and the town’s daily newspaper, the Morning News.
Current FCC rules prevent a company from owning a TV station and a daily newspaper in the same market. Until a court struck down the FCC’s plans to loosen the restriction, Media General had banked on being able to keep the combo together. The request, contained in WBTW’s license renewal application, is the first of many by major media companies to keep TV/newspaper combos intact following the court ruling.
Media General, Tribune and Gannett operate both TV stations and newspapers in eight markets where waivers will be need to prevent FCC-ordered divestitures. The companies were able to set up the combos in the first place because of a loophole that allows TV owners to buy hometown papers and operate them until the station’s license is up for renewal.
If the FCC isn’t willing to grant a permanent waiver allowing it to keep both properties, Media General’s fallback request is for permission to keep them until WBTW’s license comes up for renewal again in 2012.
Media General says a waiver is justified because owning both properties has allowed the station to offer better news coverage and the market, which includes Myrtle Beach, has robust competition between media outlets.