Sinclair Giving Up 3 Stations To Appease FCC

The three stations — WCIV Charleston and WCFT-WJSU Birmingham — are now owned by Allbritton Communications, which Sinclair is buying, and were to be operated by sidecar companies. But those plans were dashed when the FCC earlier this year cracked down on the use of JSAs and SSAs. Today's action, Sinclair said, is designed to win speedy approval of the Allbritton deal.

Sinclair Broadcast Group on Thursday announced that it was surrendering its licenses for three stations in Charleston, S.C., and Birmingham, Ala., having failed to find a buyer for them.

Sinclair said it was making the move to win speedy FCC approval of its deal to buy Allbritton Communications. That deal could unravel if the approval doesn’t come by July 28.

The three stations — WCIV Charleston and WCFT-WJSU Birmingham — are now owned by Allbritton.

Sinclair’s original intention was to operate the three stations through sidecar companies and joint and shared services agreements.

But those plans were dashed when the FCC earlier this year cracked down on the use of JSAs and SSAs to circumvent local ownership rules in markets as small as Charleston (DMA 95) and Birmingham (DMA 45).

The three stations are ABC affiliates. But Sinclair is not giving up the ABC affiliations. Instead, it told the FCC, it will move the stations’ ABC programming along with synidcation and news programming to multicast channels of the MNT affiliates Sinclair owns in Birmingham and Charleston — WABM and WMMP, respectively.

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Sinclair General Counsel Barry Faber told TVNewsCheck that Sinclair decided to use WABM and WMMP as the ABC outlets because their broadcast facilities are better than those of the Allbritton stations.

The two Republican FCC commissioners — Ajit Pai and Michael O’Reilly — seized upon the announcement to scold the Democratic majority for its JSA-SSA action, saying that it confirmed their warning that the action would lead to less diversity, not more as intended.

“This will mean job losses, less service to South Carolinians and Alabamians, and less ownership diversity,” they said. “We do not see how such an outcome possibly serves the public interest, and we hope that the commission will take action immediately to correct its misguided restrictions on JSAs.”


Comments (17)

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Christina Fleming says:

May 29, 2014 at 6:02 pm

How on earth does it mean less diversity?

Cameron Miller says:

May 29, 2014 at 7:18 pm

“now owned by Allbritton”. Don’t you mean “currently owned”? Also, what’s going to happen to WCIV and WCFT-WJSU when they lose their programming? They’re not going off the air, are they?

    Cameron Miller says:

    May 30, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Never mind.

    Keith ONeal says:

    May 30, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Maybe those stations can affiliate with other networks or other program services.

Teri Green says:

May 30, 2014 at 7:51 am

This shows what I’ve said all along, there is TOO MUCH product. If they can’t find a buyer, it means that the market cannot handle it. Let someone who can make use of the bandwidth use it. In fact, it shows TV stations SHOULD be consolidating their signals as FCC has proposed.

    John Murray says:

    May 31, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Well, yes… the Market SHOULD be allowed to handle it. But there’s a slight problem: The FCC won’t allow the Market to handle it. Because the only likely buyers of those stations would have been existing owners within those same markets. But the FCC won’t even countenance a review of duopoly rules, which distort the market.

Bobbi Proctor says:

May 30, 2014 at 9:37 am

It will be a loss of signal. If ABC is moved to a .2 position it will no longer be in HDTV with the quality it is now. Our local CW affiliate is there, but if we watch a CW program it is from a more distant station which has it on their .1 channel. The sub-channels are great for things like AntennaTV, MeTV, Cozi, etc. where most programs were not produced in high definition and many are in black and white. There is not too much product out there for those of us who use antennas. There are hundreds of payTV channels and only 2-3 dozen OTA choices. The loss of stations is a loss to us and gives us less diversity. Fortunately, there are more choices now due to the new sub-channels networks, but Sinclair is eliminating competition by grouping them this way. Might as well be watching cable HD with an inferior signal.

Bobbi Proctor says:

May 30, 2014 at 9:54 am

This should make the FCC happy as it leads them closer to their goal of destroying antenna television. We “cut the cord” several years ago and don’t want to go back.

Maria Black says:

May 30, 2014 at 10:02 am

Well, now they can sell those TV stations to a minority owner! There must be tons of them, eagerly waiting for their chance to own a TV station, judging by what everyone whines about. Or perhaps some good quality local programming, independent of any big scary network that doesn’t care about viewers, will replace the affiliates. *turns off sarcasm button* What this really means is that no one with the money to buy a station wants to jeopardize their own holdings with a purchase right now. And those companies that are snapping up low power stations for the auction don’t think they’ll make money on those stations for sale by Sinclair come auction time.

Brad Dann says:

May 30, 2014 at 11:50 am

What this really means is Sinclair is backing the FCC into a corner to get the Albritton purchase approved, no loss of programming, sub-channels can be in HD (ABC uses 720p), and no barriers for FCC to point to as excuse for not approving. Plus, Sinclair makes Broadcasters point that scale is needed to survive.

Colin MacCourtney says:

May 30, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Channel sharing by two major networks might preclude some future mobile application options upon deployment of ATSC 3.0

Nathan Kayle says:

May 30, 2014 at 12:58 pm

I cannot believe I’m reading this. Bad for the business, and just overall bad for business in this country. Very sad.

Keith ONeal says:

May 30, 2014 at 1:46 pm

I expect that when WABM and WMMP begin their affiliation with ABC that they will put ABC on .1 and move MNT to their .2 subchannels.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    May 30, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Thats a sure bet. They only said they would move them to their multicast channel, not their .2 channel.


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