Copeland's Virginia spring

FCC takes $8.75M license from Winstar, gives it to competitorBy Bill McConnell Financially beleaguered Winstar Broadcasting last week lost its right to build TV ch. 21 in Virginia Beach, Va., because it failed to make good its $8.75 million bid in a 1999 FCC auction.

Instead, the FCC said, next-highest bidder Robert Copeland can buy it for $5.69 million. That figure represents his final bid minus a credit for new entrants to broadcasting.

He believes the figure is far too high, though, contending that Winstar and another bidder were ineligible because they illegally fronted for other broadcasters that would have ultimately operated the stations. He argues that he is entitled to the license for the amount of his initial bid, a mere $800,000.

"He can pay the full amount but doesn't think he should have to," said lawyer Lauren Colby. "Two unqualified parties were bidding him up. This will be a matter of considerable contention that may well end up in court."

The FCC has rejected Colby's claim that Winstar or the other bidder misrepresented plans for ownership of the licenses.

For its failure to honor its bid, Winstar was assessed a $1.03 million fine. Parent Winstar Communications has declared bankruptcy, and no one could be reached for comment.

Copeland is a Virginia Beach real estate investor and wholesale paper broker. He also was a partial investor in radio stations in Knoxville, Tenn., and Pittsburgh but has sold those interests. To qualify for a new-entrant credit, bidders must have no current attributable interests in broadcast properties.