The proposed $1.025M acquisition of WLNI-FM by Mel Wheeler Inc. has met with a formal protest from in-market competitor Gary Burns and his 3 Daughters Media. Among other things, Burns notes that the resulting six-FM cluster wouldn’t fly in New York, much less Roanoke-Lynchburg.
Burns told RBR-TVBR he is also taking his case to the DOJ.
The seller of WLNI-FM is Centennial Licensing. RBR-TVBR’s report on the deal, including a list of the stations Wheeler would control, is available here.
According to the petition and based on BIA data, Wheeler controls the #1, 2, 3, 5, and 13th rated stations in the market in the cluster, which in addition to five FMs includes two AMs and two FM translators. Burns says that the cluster controls 48.2% of the market’s advertising revenue, and argues that the acquisition of WLNI-FM, if allowed to go through, would take Wheeler over the 50% threshold, as well as add the final station in the market’s top five to the Wheeler collection.
“Allowing the Wheeler – Centennial transaction to proceed will upset the competitive balance in the market and be detrimental overall to the health of the market and will discourage opportunities for females, minorities and small business to secure financing and to expand in the marketplace, exactly the trends the Commission is trying to reverse,” said Burns in the petition.
He continued, “Wheeler already owns 5 full power FM stations in the market. This is the most in any service that the Commission allows, even in the largest radio markets. Something is terribly flawed when Roanoke – Lynchburg licensees compete with the same rules and guidelines as those who operate stations in the New York, Chicago and Los Angeles radio markets.”
Burns contends that the market should not even be considered a top-tier market at all for local cap purposes, saying that some stations have been allowed to be considered part of the market that perhaps should not be. If that were the case, no local cluster should even be allowed five FM stations, much less six. In particular, he said flawed data was used to allow Clear Channel to pull back WSNV-FM from its Aloha Trust.
3 Daughters holds the licenses for area stations including WVGM (AM), and translator W227BG, Lynchburg, VA, WBLT (AM), Bedford, VA, WGMN (AM), Roanoke, VA, and WMNA AM & FM, Gretna, VA
RBR-TVBR observation: We thought this deal might run into cap trouble when it was announced a couple of weeks ago. This makes it clear that we weren’t the only ones.