Common Cause files petition to deny; ATVA has big problems

New York-based private equity firm Apollo Global Management is getting a lot of pushback on its proposed deals to get into the broadcasting business by buying Northwest Broadcasting and Cox Broadcasting TV stations.

Common Cause on Monday (May 13) filed a petition to deny the deals at the FCC, saying that the 25 TV stations Apollo would own meant putting a lot of broadcast ownership in a private equity firm, something Common Cause's special adviser, former FCC chairman Michael Copps, says has historically not been a public benefit.

"History has shown that the quality of our news and information has significantly diminished under private equity control. These firms typically implement cost cutting strategies that bleed newspapers dry, leading to reporter layoffs and consolidated newsrooms," said Copps. "The profits generated from cutting costs are not invested into improving the news but rather to pay off loans and manage debt. Apollo’s entry into the broadcast market invites serious skepticism that it would benefit localism and viewpoint diversity instead of following the traditional model of laying off reporters and consolidating newsrooms."

The petition identified a number of speculative harms, saying that if private equity firms' past was prologue, "Apollo would likely layoff reporters, consolidate newsrooms, and homogenize programming in order to maximize its profits."

Elsewhere, the American Television Alliance (ATVA), of which ACA Connects is a member, has filed comments raising red flags over the combo's duopolies and a "quadropoly" that would give Apollo ability to raise retransmission-consent prices, an issue ATVA has with broadcast consolidation in general.

ATVA wants the companies to have to address all the harms and benefits of the deal in a single public-interest statement and defense that the public can comment on.

Without such a process, ATVA argues with ACA Connects's full support, the merging parties "cannot possibly have met their burden of demonstrating that the proposed transaction is in the public interest."

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