South Bend LPTV deal questioned


Media watchdog Free Press is asking the FCC to deny a proposal from Schurz Communications to buy a trio of low power television stations in the South Bend IN DMA, saying it will give the company excessive concentration of the advertising media in the are, not to mention the local marketplace of ideas. Schurz owns full power CBS WSBT-TV, an AM-FM combo, and newspaper the South Bend Tribune. Its proposed LPTV deal, filed with the FCC 8/19/08, would bring in ABC WBND-LP, CW WCWW-LP & MNT WMYS-LP from Weigel Broadcasting Company for $22M. Schurz SVP broadcasting/cable Marci Burdick insisted there was nothing sinister about the proposal, telling a Tribune reporter, "This is a group that routinely challenges what it considers media consolidation issues. The petition implies that Schurz Communications Inc. has failed to show how the transaction would be in the community interest. The Federal Communications’ form to request the transfer of a low-power television station’s license does not require such information.”

RBR/TVBR observation: This is a highly unusual situation. However, in smaller DMAs where there isn’t enough population to support a full retinue of full-power broadcast outlets, LPTVs often pick up the slack on some of the newer junior networks, like CW and MNT in this case. It is unusual but not unheard of for a major to be on LPTV, also as in the case of ABC/WBND-LP in this situation. For the LPTVs, the critical factor is not signal contour so much as it is cable carriage. But as odd as this situation is, and as overly concentrated as the Schurz cluster may appear to be, Burdick is utterly correct, so far as we know, that LPTV stations to not figure in to local consolidation totals in any way. If the AM-FM-TV-newspaper cluster is fine with the regulators, the addition of the LPTVs shouldn’t matter one iota according to how the regulations are written. So the party in need of a regulatory waiver would seem not to be Schurz in this case, but complainant Free Press.