Liberman: Three waivers deserve another


Hispanic specialist Liberman Television LLC wants to be able to operate its Estrella TV network and at the same time provide spot sales representation to its affiliates, an act currently prohibited by FCC rules. It has a couple of reasons for requesting a waiver, not the least of which is that three of its competitors are operating under permanent waivers allowing them to do what Liberman would like to do.

Just for you legal types, the specific location of the rule in question is Section 73.658(i).

The reason the competitors were granted the waiver, says Liberman, is that “growth of this new foreign language network will be hampered” without it. That reason applies equally to its own network, Liberman argued.

And of course, possession of the waiver by three competitors gives them a serious leg-up over Libermen. The companies are Univision, Telemundo and Azteca America.

The FCC is putting the matter into MB Docket No. 09-192 for comment and will treat it as “permit but disclose” for ex parte purposes. Comments are due 11/23/09, and reply comments are due 12/7/09.

RBR-TVBR observation: This is why your parents were loathe to make an exception to a rule even one time, even if that one time it made a great deal of sense. The next thing you know, another sensible exception comes up, then another, and soon the rule has more holes in it than a Swiss cheese.

It makes no regulatory sense whatsoever for three established Hispanic networks to maintain such a potent competitive edge over an up-and-comer. In fact, it would seem to us that the only moral course of action is to grant Liberman’s request.

Which then begs the question, is this one of those rules that made sense in the days before cable and satellite ubiquity, but does no longer in the current multi-channel entertainment universe? Maybe the issue isn’t Liberman getting a waiver at all – maybe it’s placing a delete line through Section 73.658(i).

We confess we haven’t thought much about this particular issue and this is a gut reaction. Any comments?