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FCC OKs Sale of Marshall Stations Out of Bankruptcy

Exterior of the FCC building in Washington, D.C.
(Image credit: FCC)

The FCC's Media Bureau has approved the sale of KMSS-TV Shreveport, La., KLJB, Davenport, Iowa, and KPEJ-TV Odessa, Texas, from Marshall Broadcasting to Mission Broadcasting, saying the sale--out of bankruptcy--is in the public interest.

In the process it denied oppositions filed by law firm Randall and Associates, the National Newspaper Publishers Association, and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), saying they had not established standing to challenge the sale, which in this case would be a showing that they are actually a party in interest--meaning competitors in the markets who could be harmed or viewers who could be harmed.

The sale depletes the already thin ranks of minority TV station owners.

The FCC also said that, beyond the procedural deficiency, the opponents also "provide no specific support for their allegations that the transfer to Mission would violate the Commission’s rules or otherwise not be in the public interest."

"The public interest is further served because prompt emergence from bankruptcy is critical to the continued operation of the Stations, and facilitating prompt emergence 'advances the public interest by providing economic and social benefits, especially including the compensation of innocent creditors," the FCC said. "For these reasons, we find that the assignment of the Stations from Marshall to Mission is in the public interest, and we therefore grant the Applications."

The stations were spun off to a minority owner--Marshall Broadcasting is owned by Pluria Marshall Jr., who is Black--by Nexstar as part of its deal to buy Tribune. Nexstar currently provides services to Mission Broadcasting stations via local marketing agreements. 

Marshall sued Nexstar in 2019. He said that a key part of the station deals was that Nexstar "would help in obtaining the financing to purchase and operate the stations and would guarantee that financing for five years," as well as "provide the technical know-how and financial resources to produce new, minority-oriented programming."

But Marshall said that instead, after it had secured the Tribune deal, Nexstar "took active measures to sabotage MBG and run us out of business" so it could get the stations back via its Mission affiliation.

Nexstar has called the allegations "spurious and without merit."

"Nexstar's intent is ultimately to re-take those stations it sold to MBG, with the expectation that in the current political climate Nexstar will face significantly less regulatory push-back than it did in late 2014," Mashall said at the time of the suit.