The station group says opposition to its proposed deal for Anchorage MNT affiliate KYES Anchorage, Alaska, by telecom provider General Communication Inc. is “erroneous” and is an attempt to avoid competition.
Cable operator General Communications Inc. has asked the FCC to deny the proposed purchase by Gray Television of MNT affiliate KYES Anchorage, Alaska (DMA 148) from Fireweed Communications for $500,000, claiming the addition of the station will give Gray too much market control.
GCI, which also owns Anchorage’s CBS affiliate KTVA, says that since Gray is also acquiring the market’s NBC affiliate KTUU through its purchase of Schurz Communications’ TV stations, it should not be allowed to add KYES to its portfolio.
In addition to cable services GCI, which is Alaska’s largest telecommunications providers, offers Internet access as well as wireline (networking) and cellular telephone service.
Gray responded to GCI’s filing at the commission this week, saying: “Rather than welcome a new company and new investment to its hometown at a time of historic economic headwinds for Alaska, GCI bears its brass knuckles to Gray … with an obvious strike pleading filled with speculative nonsense and erroneous statements of fact and law. Unfortunately, GCI’s naked effort to preserve the outsized profits that result from its truly unprecedented dominance across the communications markets in Alaska will only harm the local communities that Gray seeks to serve.”
Gray has asked the FCC for a “failing station” waiver of the local ownership rules to permit the combination of KTUU and KYES, which Gray says “we believe will permit us to improve the programming and services offered by both stations.”
GCI, Gray says in its filing, “apparently fails to see the irony of a behemoth, monopoly utility alleging anti-competitive harms and serious threats to its impressive bottom line from the combination of KTUU, a strong station with an undisputed record of serving local communities, with [KYES], a weak station that has no local news, that hardly registers in ratings, and that GCI concedes has less than 5% of the local broadcast television advertising market.”
Gray continues: “Indeed, assuming that GCI is correct that Gray will improve KYES-TV to such an extent that it provides more popular programming and even becomes a viable competitor of KTVA for a CBS affiliation, how could that possibly harm the public interest? Clearly, GCI may need to increase its investments in KTVA to prevail in the marketplace over a new competitor in KYES-TV. Investments and competitive responses are precisely the types of benefits that the commission and the public want to see from broadcasters.”
The charges of GCI were similar to complaints one of its subsidiaries faced in 2013 when its Denali Media Holdings was attempting to buy three stations in Alaska. A group of Alaska TV station owners urged (unsuccessfully as it turned out) the FCC to deny Denali’s purchase of KTVA Anchorage (DMA 145) and NBC affiliates KATH-LD Juneau (DMA 201) and KSCT-LP Sitka (in the Juneau DMA), charging: “Grant of these applications would result in the combination of ownership of television stations in two of the three television markets in Alaska with ownership of the largest, indeed in many cases the exclusive, provider of terrestrial cable and broadband service to much of Alaska’s population.”