Hawaii SSA attracts attention of national watchdog


Stop Big Media is now on the case of the Raycom/MCG shared services agreement in Honolulu, which brings together three stations in the market, including an NBC, a CBS and a MyNetwork TV affiliate.

The shared services agreement (SSA) brings together Raycom’s NBC KHNL-TV and MyNetworkTV KFVE-TV with MCG’s CBS KGMB-TV.

Stop Big Media says that the two companies are simply using the SSA as a tool to accomplish the formation of an illegal consolidation cluster and writes, “…to misquote Shakespeare, ‘A merger by any other name smells just as suspicious.’”

SBM points out that the ownership caps were put in place to make sure that there were many competing sources of news, with different viewpoints, available to the citizens of a given community.

Those are basically the arguments that Media Council Hawaii is taking to the FCC, saying that breaking up the combo “is necessary to protect Hawaii television viewers because if the joint services agreement goes into force, there would be imminent danger of reduced competition, less local news coverage, less diversity of viewpoints and lower quality news programming.”

RBR-TVBR observation: In a robust economy, this combination would certainly reduce news available to local citizens. But in this economy, allowing the SSA may actually be saving a news source and perhaps news jobs as well. You have to balance what kind of news department will exist under the SSA with what the news landscape would look like if one or two stations are forced out of the news business entirely.

Raycom’s local manager says that revenue loss has been devastating enough to stations in the Honolulu DMA that without agreements such as this SSA, one or two may be forced off the air entirely. That result certainly is not in the public interest.

We understand the concerns on both sides. But are the two cooperating companies exaggerating the grimness of their position? We don’t think so – if they are, they have a lot of company from coast to coast back in the contiguous 48 states. And we’ve been hearing about it every time we tune in to another grim quarterly conference call.

The FCC will have a lot to weigh in this case.