FCC Grants Sale Of ACME Stations, Denies Time Warner Cable Petitions

The Federal Communications Commission has approved the sale of two ACME stations in Wisconsin and Ohio to LIN and to an owner whose station is being run by LIN.

The FCC April 8 approved the sale of CW affiliates WCWF(DT) Green Bay-Appleton, Wis., and WBDT(DT), Dayton, Ohio, to LIN. The first to LIN under a failing station waiver--LIN has already been operating it under a shared services agreement--and the second to WBDT Television, LLC, which LIN has also been running under a shared services agreement and where LIN already own WDTN.

Time Warner Cable had argued, in part, that the deals should not go through because the resulting duopoly and combination of ownership and management would give LIN too much leverage in retrans agreements, since LIN had signaled it planned to combine retrans negotiations for the paired stations. In addition, WCWF and WBDT had previously been must-carry stations.

The FCC concluded that WCWF had met the FCC definition of failing station, and that bargaining collectively for the station's retrans payments did not violate FCC rules. It also concluded that the WBDT sale broke no FCC rules, and that Time Warner Cable's claims of potential harm from the combined negotiation as speculative. "Despite its claims to the contrary, it is apparent that TWC's real concern is its desire for reformation of the must-carry and retransmission consent process."

The MSO, along with others, have petitioned the FCC to change its rules and forbid such negotiations, but the FCC pointed out that it has yet to act on the petition and the issue needs to be resolved there.

"There is no legal basis to impose the constraints that TWC proposes on the stations in their retransmission consent negotiations in the context of this proceeding.

John Eggerton

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.