Over-the-air TV antenna marketer Mr. Antenna Las Vegas has asked the FCC to block the transfer of the license of KVVU-TV Henderson to Gray Television, which is buying the station from Meredith, or alternatively condition the sale.
Back in May, Meredith struck a deal to sell its stations to Gray for $2.85 billion.
The FCC sought public comment on the proposed merger.
Mr. Antenna cited what it claimed was a station policy under Meredith of not selling spot advertising time to the company. "From April 2019 until this year, Mr. Antenna advertised its outdoor antenna products and services on KVVU-TV," it told the commission. "In late June 2021, however, KVVU notified Mr. Antenna that effective July 1, 2021, KVVU would no longer accept advertising from vendors whose products presented a ‘cord-cutting’ alternative to cable service," the company said.
"Meredith rejects the claims in the Informal Objection and will be filing a response," the company said in a statement.
Mr. Antenna said that it was told the policy came from Meredith and applied to all its stations. "The reason given for the change in policy," it told the FCC, "was that Meredith’s retransmission consent income is tied to cable subscribership, and that the number of cable households is declining as increasing numbers of people install outdoor antennas as an over-the-air alternative to cable. Therefore, in the eyes of Meredith, such antennas posed a competitive threat."
Mr. Antenna said that hardly squared with the public interest mission to provide over-the-air TV, one it said Meredith had stressed its commitment to over-the-air broadcasting when it sought a channel change for KVVU and pitched the over-the-air benefits that would accrue to the change.
Mr. Antenna said requiring that "Gray and related entities forbear from denying reasonable requests for airtime from vendors of television antennas should be made a condition of the KVUU sale."
It also said the condition should apply to all the stations. "Because "the infirmity we identify is transaction-specific," it told the commission, "the condition should be applied to all of the Meredith television licenses that Gray acquires as a result of the Transaction."
Mr. Antenna said the FCC could allow Gray not to sell spot ads to outdoor antenna vendors, but only if Gray swore that the policy is unrelated to its maximizing retrans revenue.
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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