New TV Gets Green Light

Norfolk, Va.-area developer and newsprint broker Robert Copeland has gotten the green light from the FCC to build facilities for ch. 21 in Virginia Beach, which will be the first major-market TV station to be built from scratch in more than a decade. The Norfolk market ranks 41st in the U.S.

The FCC dismissed a petition by WBOC Salisbury, Md., to reject Copeland's application. WBOC complained that the new station posed a threat of interference, even though the two stations would be on opposite sides of the Chesapeake Bay.

WBOC argued that the Virginia Beach station will create inference similar to a signal conflict created by WHRO Hampton Roads, Va., four years ago. 

In 2001, WHRO partially knocked out WBOC's signal in a phenomenon known as “ducting,” which magnifies TV signals traveling over water. But the FCC said WBOC never proved that Copeland's station would generate the same kind of interference.

Copeland won the right to build ch. 21 after bidding $5.17 million in 2001. The payment is the highest ever for a TV-station construction permit, the license broadcasters need to build a studio and tower.

Few major markets have room for any new TV stations, but broadcast engineers calculated more than a decade ago that one could fit into the Virginia Tidewater area. Because of competing applications for the channel, the FCC decided to auction it.

Original winning bidder Winstar Broadcasting went bankrupt and second-highest bidder Copeland was granted the permit.