The commission approves the purchase of the Topeka ABC affiliate by PBC Broadcasting from Free State Communications despite an objection by the American Cable Association that the deal would likely create a triopoly with expected KTKA operator New Vision, which owns NBC affiliate KSNT and low-power Fox affil.
Over the objection of the American Cable Association, the FCC today approved PBC Broadcasting’s purchase of KTKA Topeka, Kan., from Free State Communications for $1.5 million.
PBC, owned by Todd Parkin, is expected to turn over operation of the station to New Vision Television, which owns the NBC affiliate (KSNT) and low-power Fox affiliate in Topeka, forming a virtual triopoly in the market.
PBC is New Vision’s silent duopoly partner is two other markets: Youngstown, Ohio, and Savannah, Ga.
In petitioning the FCC to deny the sale, the ACA argued that the likely duopoly would give the duopoly operator undue bargaining leverage in retransmission consent negotiation with cable and satellite operators.
But in granting the sale, the FCC said that the question raised by ACA was better addressed in an ongoing review of rule retrans.
“[W]e decline to reach a decision that would effectively pre-judge the outcome of a pending rulemaking in favor of one of the parties that petitioned to commence it,” the FCC said.
Comprising small cable operators, ABA has been leading the charge for retrans reform in Washington.
ACA President Matt Polka said he was “disheartened” by the FCC grant.
“It is disappointing that the FCC would completely ignore the obvious harm that would result from one company controlling the retransmission consent rights of the ABC, NBC and FOX stations in Topeka, particularly for an agency whose mission is to look out for consumers and competition,” he said in a statement.
“One of the FCC’s primary duties is to review broadcast TV station sales and ensure that they are in the public interest. Yet, as a result of the FCC’s willingness to ‘kick the can’ to the retransmission consent rulemaking, ACA members will now be forced to kowtow to the unconstrained market power of the Topeka triopoly or face a massive blackout of three dominant local TV stations that can start as soon as Jan. 1, 2012. In either case, Topeka consumers will be the biggest losers.”