The FCC chairwoman doesn’t see (or doesn’t care) that by weakening retrans, she is chipping away at the viability of the station business and a “cornerstone” of the agency’s longstanding broadcast policy: localism.
Standard General, controlled by Soo Kim and operated by Deborah McDermott, is not the greatest TV broadcasting company in the land.
But it is most certainly a capable one. Together, Kim and McDermott have built a strong record of running TV stations. Having assembled the financing to make a $8.6-billion deal for Tegna, they should have had the opportunity to close the deal and join the top ranks of broadcasters.
But last week, after mulling the deal for a year, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel unilaterally and wrongly denied the opportunity by ordering the agency’s Media Bureau to hold a formal hearing on charges leveled by critics of the deal. Two broadcast unions alleged the deal would lead to the loss of newsroom jobs, and cable and consumer advocates claimed that it would push up retrans fees and, in turn, cable sububscription fees.
Such a hearing is tantamount to a denial. It’s already been a year since Standard submitted the deal for FCC approval and a hearing would stretch things out another several months. Its highly unlikely Standard would be able keep its complex financial package from unraveling for that long.
The action came even after Standard did all it could to placate the critics, promising not to cut newsroom staff for two years or to use so-called after-acquired retransmission consent contracts to wring fat new retrans fees out of the cable operators.
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TVNewsCheck | by Harry A. Jessell