Media Council is claiming small victory over Raycom


POSTED: Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Federal Communications Commission is digging deeper into Media Council Hawaii's challenge to the shared services agreement of KGMB-TV, KHNL-TV and KFVE-TV.

“;We are the first community to stand up and challenge this so-called shared service arrangement that seeks to avoid regulatory scrutiny,”; Media Council Hawaii President Chris Conybeare said yesterday at a news conference.

Raycom Media Inc. of Alabama responded to a recent letter from the FCC trying to clarify points of the deal.

“;It is interesting that Raycom has already made some changes in the deal,”; said Angela Campbell, a faculty professor with the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law School. The institute is representing the media council before the Federal Communications Commission.

Campbell is in town for the media council's public forum, “;Save Local Television, Stop Big Media,”; tomorrow at the Musicians' Association offices at 949 Kapiolani Blvd.

The FCC's Media Bureau sent Raycom a letter Nov. 10 instructing it to explain how parts of its deal should not be considered violations of FCC rules, as alleged by Media Council Hawaii.

Raycom responded last Tuesday. One issue addressed was Raycom's option to “;outright purchase the remainder of what was KGMB, which is really only the FCC license, because basically they have already acquired the rights to everything except the license,”; Campbell said.

The FCC wanted details of the financial arrangement in the purchase option agreement.

Raycom indicated a willingness to comply with the request but wants the media council's attorneys to agree to keep certain details of that option confidential.

Raycom described another point as a “;clarification”; of its management services agreement with MCG Capital Corp. MCG owns the station that is now KFVE-TV, but which had been KGMB-TV, before Raycom and MCG swapped the stations' programming and call letters.

“;It appears they (Raycom) at one point contemplated that ... MCG was going to be actually in a partnership with Raycom subsidiaries, and that would be a clear violation of the FCC rules,”; Campbell said. “;And when the FCC asked them (Raycom) about it in a letter, they said, 'Oh, that was just a scrivener's error,' and they amended the contract.”;

A scrivener is a professional copyist, or scribe, as in “;Bartleby, the Scrivener,”; written by Herman Melville in 1853.

Raycom said MCG subsidiary HITV “;neither ... currently holds, has ever held or has any intention or future right to hold any ownership interest ... in the Raycom Subsidiary or any affiliate of Raycom.”;

“;Raycom and HITV appreciate the opportunity to clarify this important point,”; the filing said.

On Monday Campbell's team will file a response to Raycom's filing, which also sought to keep certain details private. “;One way or the other,”; it will obtain the information, but might have to sign a protective order agreeing to keep certain details confidential, Campbell said.

All other filings in the case will be posted at the Media Council Hawaii Web site.

“;Our cause is anchored by the fact that broadcasters use a public resource, the airwaves, and that the community needs to be involved in decisions about their use,”; Conybeare said.

Tomorrow's forum will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The $20 cost includes a bento lunch and a beverage. Reservations can be made at 596-2121.

On the Net:

» mediacouncil.org/wp