Sinclair Partner Scolded For Public File Flaw

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A partner company of Sinclair Broadcast Group that just agreed to acquire three TV stations from Sinclair has been formally admonished by the FCC for its failure to prepare the station’s lists in accordance with its public file rules.


Section 73.3526(e)(11)(i) of the Commission’s rules requires each commercial broadcast licensee to maintain a public inspection file containing specific types of information related to station operations.

Among the rule stipulations is a requirement that every commercial television licensee maintain a list of programs “that have provided the station’s most significant treatment of community issues during the preceding three month period” and must provide “a brief narrative describing what issues were given significant treatment and the programming that provided this treatment.” These narratives must include, at minimum, “the time, date, duration, and title of each program in which the issue was treated.”

TV issues/programs lists must be placed in the station’s online public file by the tenth day of the succeeding calendar quarter and copies must be retained until final action has been taken on the station’s next license renewal application.

For Howard Stirk-owned unaffiliated WGWG-4 in Charleston, S.C., which it has owned and operated since February 27, 2015, this was not done.

A staff review of the station’s online public inspection file revealed that WGWG failed to include in its TV issues/programs lists all of the necessary information required by FCC from the day it assumed control of the station.

Howard Stirk purchased the station from Sinclair after the FCC criticized the company for its use of joint sales agreements (JSAs) to evade local ownership caps. From 1962 until the station’s sale, it was home to WCIV — Charleston’s ABC affiliate since 1996.

Sinclair gained the former WCIV as part of its August 2014 acquisition of Allbritton Communications.

In a letter to Howard Stirk, Media Bureau Video Division Chief Barbara Kreisman explained, “While the all of the station’s TV issues/programs lists were placed in [WGWG-TV]’s online public file in a timely manner, the lists from the second quarter of 2015 to the second quarter of 2017 omitted information required by [the Commission].”

Compliance came on September 29, 2017. As such, “we find that admonition is appropriate sanction at this time,” Kreisman said.

However, “While the Licensee took actions to fix and prevent future violations, this does not relieve it from liability for violations that have already occurred,” she added. “We do
not rule out more severe sanctions for violations of a similar nature in the future.”

Howard Stirk Holdings is a national broadcasting company that is owned and operated by veteran journalist, entrepreneur and television producer Armstrong Williams. As RBR+TVBR first reported on April 24, Howard Stirk is acquiring Univision-affiliated KUNS-TV in Seattle, MyNetwork TV affiliate KMYU-TV in Salt Lake City, and unaffiliated KAUT-TV in Oklahoma City from Sinclair.

Following the sale of these stations, Sinclair will provide services pursuant to joint sales and shared services agreements.

This follows a March deal that saw Howard Stirk nab Sinclair stations in Flint, Mich., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.