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August 3, 2001

CONCURRING STATEMENT OF COMMISSIONER MICHAEL J. COPPS

Re: Transfer of Control of Tiberius Broadcasting Inc., licensee of WTXX-TV, from Counterpoint Communications, Inc., to Tribune Television Company

Although I am troubled by this transaction, I concur in the Commissionís decision to transfer the license for WTXX-TV to the Tribune Television Company. After close and careful deliberation, I conclude that the public interest benefits to be derived from this transaction outweigh, albeit narrowly, the strong arguments against it.

First, the community will receive a very tangible benefit from WTXX remaining a viable station beyond the termination of its programming agreement with WTIC. WTXX has been in danger of failing for a number of years and the public interest would not be served were this station to go dark. Although I am extremely troubled by the fact that this transaction creates a television station duopoly in a market without sufficient media diversity to support such a duopoly, it seems to me better for one company to own two stations in this market than for one of those stations not to exist at all. Additionally, WTXX is the only outlet in the Hartford market for UPN, a network that the Commission has previously recognized for presenting programming targeted to minorities as well as providing opportunities for minorities in the creation, production and writing of programming.

Second, while this transfer violates the Commissionís newspaper/broadcast ownership rule, todayís decision requires the company to divest the necessary properties to come into compliance with the rule within six months. This tight six-month waiver is far more appropriate than the twenty-four month waiver recently granted to News Corporation. For a Commission that continues to take seriously its ownership rules, a waiver to allow a party to come into compliance should be a matter of months, as it is here, rather than years. I would expect the companyís divestiture efforts to begin immediately.

Nevertheless, this transaction highlights the need for the Commission to revisit a serious problem in its newspaper/broadcast rule. The current rule allows the owner of a television station to acquire and hold a newspaper in ostensible violation of this prohibition until the stationís license comes up for renewal, oft-times many years later. Tribune at present owns WTIC and the Hartford Courant, the dominant paper in the market, yet has until 2007 to come into compliance with the rule. If the short term waiver granted today vis-ŗ-vis the WTXX-Hartford Courant combination results in either the sale of the Hartford Courant or the sale of WTXX with the concomitant sale of WTIC within six months, the community will be served by the increased diversity achieved by the companyís early compliance with the newspaper/broadcast rule. In any event, the transaction before the Commission today underscores the need to review this problem in a rulemaking, with an eye toward making certain that when a newspaper is acquired by a broadcast licensee, the Commission has the tools to ensure diversity of voices in the media market at the time of the transfer rather than years in the future.

In conclusion, my analysis of this transaction persuades me that, on balance and by the barest of margins, the public interest is served by allowing it to proceed.