Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) wants the FCC to
put Tribune's station license transfers and attendant waiver requests out for
public comment, and says she will introduce a bill, the FCC Waiver
Accountability Act of 2012, that would make that required procedure for all
in a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, said she thought the FCC had
not sufficiently monitored the public interest obligations of broadcast license
holders when the licenses are held by hedge funds and venture capitalists in
bankruptcy proceedings. She also said that the FCC has never made it clear to
the public when one a transfer it is considering includes a waiver of tis
rules. "The practice does not promote transparency," she said.
she said she was troubled by the recent retrans dispute between DirecTV and
Tribune--since resolved--in which DirecTV alleged that Tribune creditors -- it is
in the midst of protracted bankruptcy proceedings -- had blocked a deal that
would have resolved the impasse earlier.
The impasse led to blackouts in California (L.A.) and New York.
FCC has yet to rule on the transfer of Tribune licenses and newspaper-broadcast
crossownership waivers, and Waters says that, as the bankruptcy proceeding
winds down, it should put those waivers out for review before deciding whether
to allow the transfer to creditors. "When the commission revisits
Tribune's application," she wrote, "I strongly believe the public
should also be given the opportunity to comment on both the transfer of the
licenses and any waivers the investment firms will need to continue to operate
both a Newspaper and broadcast station in the same market." Not to do so,
she said, would rob the people of an opportunity to provide input on whether
the transfer of the license and waivers would be in the public interest.
pointed out that since the Third Circuit invalidated the FCC's revision of
ownership rules, the ban on crossownerships was in effect and the common
ownership should terminate upon the sale of the properties, absent new waivers.
has been in bankruptcy court since 2008. Its biggest creditors include hedge
funds and investment banks like Oaktree Partners, Angelo, Gordon & Co., JP
Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Citibank.
Mike Farrell (Multichannel News) contributed to this