The acquisition of ABC KTKA-TV Topeka by Parkin Broadcasting Company just survived FCC scrutiny spurred by the objections of the American Cable Association. The reason: Parkin’s frequent SSA/JSA partner New Vision Broadcasting is already active in the market with NBC KSNT-TV and Fox KTMJ-CA. The KSNT/KTMJ news operations were already consolidated under the KSNT umbrella, and now KTKA is coming into the fold.
PBS is buying KTKA from Free State Communications in a $1.5M deal brokered by Kalil and Co. and CobbCorp. It was filed with the FCC 2/10/11.
Parkin and New Vision have combined operations in Youngstown OH and Savannah GA, and the Topeka news merger clearly indicates they are going down that path once again.
According to the Capital-Journal, KSNT will be take the lead in what will be a mix-and-match news operation – it says that not all KTKA new staffers will become part of the merged operation, but nine are expected to make the transition. There are expected to be 29 employees in the department in all.
The ACA is worried that New Vision and Parkin will negotiate as a triopoly and with three of the four major networks in control, they will wield an unacceptable amount of market power when it comes time to come to new retransmission consent terms. ACA was joined by five MVPDs with operations in the area in protesting Parkin’s acquisition of KTKA.
However, there is nothing illegal about an SSA or JSA, nor are there any rules about how retransmission agreements are negotiated. Broadcasters argued, and the FCC agreed, that the ACA complaint was being addressed in the FCC’s pending proceeding on retransmission consent, and that the sale of KTKA was not the proper venue upon which to address those concerns.
RBR-TVBR observation: Watchdogs such as Free Press will be howling over this one. ACA likely won’t go on record about consolidated news operations, but it will be howling about consolidated retransmission consent negotiations if the de facto broadcast triple-header plays rougher than it thinks appropriate. Expect to see the Battle of Topeka engaged in the broadcast watchdog arena.