Media council fights TV deal


POSTED: Saturday, September 05, 2009

Media Council Hawaii will challenge the shared services agreement between KGMB-TV and KHNL/KFVE-TV with the Federal Communications Commission and is inviting public comment at upcoming forums.

The council has retained the Washington D.C.-based Institute for Public Representation at the Georgetown University Law Center to fight the plan by the stations' owners, Alabama-based Raycom Media Inc. and Virginia-based MCG Capital Corp.

The agreement will have KGMB move in to KHNL/KFVE facilities, merge news and other operations while advertising functions remain separate — and it has started a cascade of layoffs of high-profile on-camera personnel as well as behind-the-scenes employees, including nearly all videographers in KHNL's news department.

Should the agreement reach fruition, Raycom will control CBS affiliate KGMB as well as NBC affiliate KHNL and will operate MCG-owned KFVE, an independent station.

The council's announcement calls the agreement a “;thinly veiled attempt to avoid regulatory scrutiny by the FCC”; which will have Raycom exercise control over all three stations in violation of the FCC's multiple-ownership rules.

“;Raycom will control 45 percent of all the (TV advertising) revenues in this market as well as editorial control, programming and advertising sales related to all three stations,”; it says.

Rick Blangiardi, president and general manager of KGMB, and John Fink, vice president and general manager of KHNL/KFVE, referred questions to Raycom officials in Alabama who could not be reached for comment late yesterday.

Raycom President and Chief Executive Officer Paul McTear previously told the Star-Bulletin, “;We remain pretty confident that we are not going to be in violation of or flirting with any violation of FCC rules.”;

Stations are licensed by the FCC to serve the interests of their communities, but Chris Conybeare, Media Council Hawaii president, said the agreement will “;reduce diversity of opinion, create canned newscasts, increase advertising rates, strangle independent programming and raise barriers to any who wish to enter the market.

“;These effects are all contrary to public interest and the law.”;

The agreement also raises concerns about concentration of control of broadcast facilities across the nation, said Gerald Kato, council board member and University of Hawaii journalism professor.

“;The public deserves greater respect from broadcast licensees rather than disregard for broadcast ownership law and disregard for longtime employees,”; he said.

The Institute for Public Representation works in the areas of First Amendment and media law, environmental law and matters of civil rights and general public interest.

People interested in participating in council forums on the issue can send the council an e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).