Will Congress OK A ‘License Transfer Modernization’ Act?


Is The ‘License Transfer Modernization’ Act Just An Act?

On December 9, a House Republican from Texas who sits on the Energy & Commerce Committee introduced legislation that would require the FCC to approve, or deny, a license transfer application within six months of submission. It has two co-sponsors. Does it have any legs?

Introducing the License Transfer Modernization Act of 2019. It is formally known as HR5365, and was introduced by Rep. Bill Flores, who represents Texas’ 17th Congressional District.

The bill’s co-sponsors are two other GOP House Members: Billy Long, of Missouri, and Gregory Steube of Florida.

Why Flores introduced the legislation is intriguing. His district stretches from Waco to Bryan-College Station, Tex., and Flores has represented the area since 2010. He was previously President/CEO of Phoenix Exploration Co., an oil industry operation.

And, Flores is set to retire in January 2021, as he is not seeking reelection in November 2020.

In Waco, the major radio broadcasting companies are iHeartMedia and Prophecy Media Group. In Bryan-College Station, iHeartMedia is also a player, as is Bryan Broadcasting – the owner of stations that is championing HD Radio-only AM-band transmissions.

Flores’ district also includes a small portion of the Austin market.

Flores’ legislation would also prohibit the designation of a covered application for hearing, unless the FCC first determines by a majority vote “that a material factual question exists about misrepresentation or lack of candor by the applicant.”

Additionally, the FCC can apply for a 30-day extension with U.S. District Court in D.C. should it need longer than six months to approve or deny a proposed deal.

Flores has not offered comment as to why he has proposed the legislation. However, the presence of Bryan Broadcasting in his district may play some role – even if a tiny one – in why Flores introduced the act. Bryan is led by William R. Hicks, a brother of Steve and Tom Hicks.

Steve Hicks built Gulfstar Communications and Capstar Broadcasting, which had interests in Waco. Tom Hicks enjoyed a successful career in the finance industry as one of the founders of Hicks, Muse, Tate and Furst, a Dallas-based company behind several media company buyouts. He also built Chancellor Broadcasting — one of the now-defunct radio companies iHeart can claim as part of its roots.

It’s been 15 years since Tom Hicks left Hicks, Muse, Tate and Furst, but has continued to be active through his own operation. Steven Hicks went on to ClickRadio, an interactive digital radio service.

Then, there is iHeartMedia, the San Antonio-headquartered operator that is No. 1 by station count and revenue.

If Rep. Flores’ bill were to become law, iHeart and Bryan would be just some of the radio companies to benefit from it.

What about TV companies? ABC affiliate KXXV-25 is owned by The E.W. Scripps Co., and acquired the station in January following Raycom Media’s merger with Gray Television.

Gray is in Waco with CBS affiliate KWTX-10 and “The CW 12,” KNCT-46.

Since May 2014, NBC affiliate KCEN-6 has been owned by TEGNA.

Then, there is Nexstar Media Group. In Waco, it has a duopoly in its ownership of FOX affiliate KWKT-44 and MyNetwork TV affiliate KYLE-28.

With AM HD Radio pioneer Bryan in the district, along with properties from the No. 1 owner of radio stations and the top TV companies in the U.S., it may very well explain why Flores has an interest in making deals at the FCC steam again, instead of stalling.