FCC disrupts Johnstown PA deal


But at least the buyer won’t have to wait Forever. In fact, the buyer IS Forever Broadcasting. It was trying to acquire WCCL-FM Central City, WBVH-AM/ WLKH-FM Somerset and WNTJ(AM) from 2510 Licenses, over the objection of a pair of other local broadcasters.

The stations were part of the Johnstown PA Arbitron market, but Forever ended its Arbitron subscription and Arbitron shut the market down officially on 10/2/07. Forever argued that since the area was no longer rated territory, it could upgrade its 2AM, 4FM group to a daisy-chain 3AM, 6 FM cluster using the old contour method.

The FCC said that the rule preventing a company from gaining immediate benefit from a market definition change resulting in expansion or contraction also applied when a market disappears in its entirety. The ban on benefitting is in effect for two years, so Forever can try again on 10/2/09 if the stations and financing are still available.

The petitions to deny came from Sherlock Broadcasting Inc. and Sounds Good Inc. filing jointly, and from Vernal Enterprises Inc. Vernal suggested that Forever went above and beyond the call of duty to create a favorable market definition for its proposed station grouping. “Forever has effectuated the ultimate change in Metro boundaries; it has eliminated them.” 

RBR/TVBR observation: The FCC avoided untangling the worms that spilled out of this can for now. But what if Forever does eventually acquire the stations, then after a period brings Arbitron back into the market? Or instead of Arbitron, it brings in Eastlan or even Nielsen? For some reason the FCC never included Eastlan in its market reckoning even though it is a completely reputable ratings company, and we’re sure there’s nothing in the regs about coming-soon-to-a-radio-market-near-you Nielsen either. None of this may happen, but the situation is ripe for anomalies, oddities and precedents. Stay tuned.