Hispanic broadcaster Entravision would pay $18 million under a tentative deal to end a 16-year battle for WHCT-TV Hartford, Conn. Entravision is a late arrival to a dispute about whct-tv's license, waged by Astroline Communications and Shurberg Broadcasting.
The FCC originally granted Astroline the right to buy the station from Faith Center Inc. in 1984 under a now-defunct policy that let owners threatened with a license revocation sell to minorities at 75% of their value. Shurberg appealed the decision, arguing that Astroline did not qualify for minority status. Years of litigation followed. The legal tussle eventually bankrupted Astroline.
A year ago, an FCC administrative law judge approved Astroline's application and the company's new plan to turn over the permit to Two If By Sea Broadcasting (TIBS). Shurberg then questioned the qualifications of TIBS, and the dispute was slated for another round of hearings. In stepped Entravision with an offer to give Shurberg $7.48 million, TIBS $9.52 million and Astroline $1 million.
Although the FCC generally frowns on payouts by last-minute "white knights" and to companies that hold license approvals hostage, it is in the public interest to end this protracted fight, said the agency's enforcement bureau.