Connecticut AG questions Sam Zell


Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General of Connecticut, claims Tribune Company’s plan to merge the newsrooms of WTIC-TV, WTXX-TV and The Hartford Courant violates the FCC’s temporary waiver for the crossownership combination. The AG has written to Tribune CEO Sam Zell demanding answers to a series of questions. Tribune says it is in full compliance with the law.

“On its face, this arrangement appears to violate the Federal Communications Commission ban on a company owning a TV station and newspaper in the same market,” Blumenthal wrote. He conceded that Tribune has a temporary waiver from the FCC while it considers whether to change the rule. “I am concerned that allowing these entities to full merge into one news and information operation goes well beyond what the FCC intended when it granted Tribune a two-year limited waiver,” he wrote. Blumenthal’s letter can be downloaded as a pdf on this page.

Tribune on Friday sent this statement to RBR/TVBR:

“Tribune’s decision to operate the Hartford Courant and its two television stations from one location in Hartford was designed to improve our ability to serve our readers, viewers and advertisers and the communities in which they live and work. Permitting WTIC and WTXX to draw on the rich newsgathering resources of the nation’s oldest newspaper makes them a better and more competitive news organization. Giving the Courant more direct access to the television stations’ video journalism makes the newspaper more relevant to its readers, and improves the 24/7 coverage the Courant and the stations provide over the internet . The Courant and the stations will continue to decide independently what news to present and how to present it to their print, broadcast and internet audiences.

These three business units have taken advantage of one another’s newsgathering resources for several years. This next step is in full compliance with the law, including the waivers granted by the FCC. We know our readers and viewers in Connecticut have many other choices to turn to for news, information and entertainment. In an economic environment where newspapers and broadcasters must innovate and become more efficient to survive, measures such as this are essential to preserve the quality journalism that the Courant and our television stations are known for. We appreciate Attorney General Blumenthal’s concerns, but we believe they are misplaced.”

RBR/TVBR observation: Yet another example of a state Attorney General sticking his nose into an area where he has no legal authority. Don’t these people have anything to do at the jobs they were elected to?

If Richard Blumenthal, as a private citizen, thinks Tribune is violating the terms of its FCC waiver, he is free to complain to the FCC. As Connecticut AG, he has no authority to enforce the FCC’s rules, regulations and waivers.

Being the blunt guy that he is, we’re hoping that Sam Zell tells AG Blumenthal to stick his questions where the sun don’t shine. But his lawyers will probably persuade him to send back diplomatic answers.