FCC waves through another failing-station waiver


FCCDid you know that although a surfer may go to the beach and instantly catch a wave, it is nigh unto impossible for a station buyer to go to the FCC and catch a waive? If a station is subject to special conditions, the FCC takes the occasion of its sale as an opportunity to re-evaluate those conditions. Such is the case for Sinclair in the Albany-Schenectady-Troy NY DMA.

The referenced proceeding is Sinclair’s acquisition of eight Freedom Communications television stations and related assets, and in particular, it references two stations in Albany that are part of the deal.

CBS WRGB is the lead station of the pair coming from Freedom. CW WCWN is the weaker of the two. It is not among the top four-rated stations in the market, but the market also lacks eight independent television ownership voices – meaning that Freedom was not able to own WCWN at face value.

It acquired the station with an FCC-granted failing-station waiver.

The FCC said that the evidence presented indicated that the station was still facing challenging economic realities, and the odds of making a go of things with a brand new independent owner were not good.

Moreover, extensive efforts to sell all or part of Freedom during 2011 by the firm Moelis & Company produced nibbles but no bites, particularly for WCWN, and in the opinion of the firm’s John Momtazee, there was little or no chance that a buyer from outside the market would be found for the station.

The FCC granted the waiver, and at the same time, gave the green light to the entire Freedom/Sinclair transaction.

RBR-TVBR observation: As we think back on the many reports we have read similar to this one – and they usually involve stations in a flagship/satellite relationship in a central or western state – we cannot think of one instance where the waiver did not carry over to the new owner. But unless the rules are expressly changed to eliminate this step in the process, we’ll be seeing more examples going forward.