Big Island newspaper firm buys into KHHB
Stephens Media forms Hilo LP TV under the new arrangement
The publisher of both daily newspapers on the Big Island is now part-owner of Hilo television station KHHB-LP, Channel 5. It is carried on Oceanic Time Warner Cable's basic and digital channel lineups in Hilo.
The federal law that prohibits newspapers from buying television stations in their markets does not apply to low-power stations like KHHB, but the cross-ownership plan has nonetheless alarmed media watchers.
The Federal Communications Commission approved the ownership transfer last Thursday and issued a public notice yesterday.
Nevada-based Stephens Media LLC publishes the daily Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo and West Hawaii Today newspapers, as well as weekly publications.
"It's a sad day for the people on the Big Island, to have a good bit of their media concentrated in the hands of somebody that's an offshore owner," said Chris Conybeare, chairman of the Honolulu Community-Media Council. "I just don't think that's good for the people and the communities."
Stephens formed Hilo LP TV LLC for the new ownership arrangement with Kevin Culbertson, managing member of now-former licensee Hilo Hawaii Broadcasting Ltd.
It also paid Culbertson what it called a contribution of $242,000 as part of the deal.
Hilo LP TV President Michael Ferguson, also Stephens' vice president and chief operating officer, told the Star-Bulletin last month Culbertson would retain day-to-day control of the station.
Culbertson said yesterday that he was in the process of interviewing candidates for a news department. He said "nothing definitive" has been worked out with Stephens about a news-sharing agreement, however, he is open to such arrangements.
Culbertson's current thirty-second news updates air on the station from 4 to 10 p.m.