Raycom’s Hawaii TV triple play still under review


Former US Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) wrote a second letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski asking for a review of the agreement between Raycom and MCG Capitol that brings together three television stations in the Honolulu HI market. Genachowski assured him that the Commission is still on the case.

Abercrombie’s letters were sent awhile back – in fact, he is no longer a member of Congress, having abdicated his seat in order to run for governor in Hawaii. His most recent letter to Genachowski was dated 11/24/09, and in it he stated that it was basically a resend of his earlier 10/16/09 letter.

“I am writing to call on the FCC to carefully review Raycom Media and MCG Capitol’s plan for the Joint Operation of Television Stations KHNL, KFVE and KGMB in Honolulu, Hawaii,” wrote Abercrombie. “It is important to ensure that Hawaii’s public interest does not suffer because of this merger.

Abercrombie continued, “The merger cannot help but lead to the loss of editorial diversity and may violate FCC ownership rules. Three stations will be combining their news and editorial functions, which will lead to fewer perspectives in the news and fewer outlets for the public.”

“The FCC should also review the merger as it may be in violation of the Commission’s local television ownership limit,” he concluded. “KGMB and KHNL are ranked among the top four stations in the Honolulu market, which is a violation of the rule.”

In a reply sent 3/2/10 and released by the FCC to the public 3/30/10, Genachowski explained that the FCC had been collecting information from the parties involved, based on the complaint filed by Media Council Hawaii. “The Bureau anticipates completing its review concerning the joint operations of KHNL, KFVE, and KGMB in the near future.”

RBR-TVBR observation: The FCC has repeatedly allowed time brokerage agreements, joint sales agreements, shared services agreements, etc., as long as there are separate management staffers exercising ultimate control over the stations that are not legally co-owned.

You would think that the FCC is therefore not in a position to upend the various forms of LMA that are in place throughout the nation based on this one case. Perhaps it may come up with a ruling that could be narrowly tailored to this situation, but we’d guess that a blanket statement of LMA policy is out of the question.

However, the FCC retooled the way it handles fleeting expletives overnight after the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident. So we suppose that anything is possible. We will await the FCC’s decision on this case with interest.

We also expect this issue will come up again in the course of the Quadrennial Review, and that is a process in which changes could be made. Stay tuned.