FCC Waives Rules For Decatur Duopoly

ACME TV 'waiving' goodbye to its Decatur station, saying it couldn't make any money from it and didn't see how it ever would.

The FCC has waived its duopoly rules to allow Gocom Media to buy failing station and CW affiliate WBUI-TV Decatur, Ill., from ACME Television.

The FCC prevents duopolies in markets where allowing one owner to own two stations would not leave at least 8 independently owned TV's in the market, as would be the case in Decatur, where Gocom already owns WRSP, the Fox affiliate. But it makes exceptions for financial hardship.

ACME's CFO Thomas Allen told the FCC that the station had lost money for three years running and saw no change in that short of joint operation with another station.

Before it can qualify for a failed station waiver, the seller must show that it tried to sell the station to a buyer who would not need the waiver. Allen said Acme did so with no "meaningful interest."

Gocom President Richard Gorman has promised to maintain the separate affiliations of the stations, improve community outreach, increase local programming, including adding local weather and news inserts into Acme's syndicated Daily Buzz program..

The FCC's Media Bureau concluded in granting the waiver that the merger would boost news and public affairs programming and pose to the diversity and competition goals of its limitations on duopolies because absent the combination, it is harder for the station to be a viable voice in the market. "Under these circumstances," said Bureau Chief Monica Desai in granting the waiver, "allowing WBUI to be operated by a stronger station in the market will result in a definite improvement in facilities and programming, an outcome which clearly benefits the public interest. "  

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.