LIN Television Corporation is buying all of one ACME television station and a large chunk of another. Both deals drew opposition from Time Warner Cable, which fears that LIN will leverage the stations with in-market duopoly partners during retransmission negotiations. The FCC turned down TWC, calling its protests “speculative.”
The deals were filed with the FCC 9/20/10, when LIN exercised an LMA/option it had struck with ACME.
One station is WBDT-TV Dayton OH (licensed to Springfield OH), a CW affiliate that is paired with NBC WDTN. It’s being sold for $9.2M to a partnership led by LIN, which is acquiring the bulk of the station. Vaughn Media is paying $920K for FCC assets, including the license. TWC was joined in filing against that deal by Buckeye Cablevision.
The other station is WCWF-FM Green Bay-Appleton WI (licensed to Suring WI), another CW affiliate being operated in tandem with LIN’s Fox WLUK-TV.
In both cases, TWC complains that the stations being acquired formerly elected must-carry privileges rather than retransmission negotiation privileges, a choice that will no longer apply once LIN is the party on the other side of the table. And it argued that holding two licenses gives LIN too much power, and fears that the weaker station would be able to extract higher fees than it could as a standalone.
The FCC said that TWC’s arguments are speculative. The station could try to get higher rates? It might pull its signal during negotiations? Sure it could – and maybe it won’t. Further, the FCC points out that the station is perfectly within its rights to switch from enforcing its option on must carry to enforcing its right to negotiate for carriage.
The FCC said what TWC is actually seeking is a change in the rules governing the retransmission negotiation process, and its concerns should be stated in the NPRM pending on that topic, not in regards to a license transfer.
The FCC granted both transfers – in the case of WCWF, the grant was made possible by a failing station waiver.
LIN’s agreement with Vaughn in Dayton includes a purchase option should the regulatory environment change and allow LIN to hold its license as well as its physical and programming assets.