August 3, 2001
|Re:||Transfer of Control of Tiberius Broadcasting, Inc., Licensee of WTXX (TV), Waterbury, Connecticut, from Counterpoint Communications, Inc. to Tribune Television Company|
I am deeply troubled by the level of media concentration that would exist in Hartford as a result of this transaction. The ownership of the dominant newspaper and two television stations in a small market such as Hartford is unprecedented. Tribune will exercise significant control over the flow of public discourse in Hartford while it holds these three media properties.
I am also troubled by the fact that the temporary waivers we grant are not incidental to a larger transaction but in fact represent the essence of the transaction before us. In previous cases, the Commission granted temporary waivers where a relatively small component of the resulting combination would violate one or more of our ownership rules. Here, Tribune owns a television station and the dominant newspaper in Hartford. It now seeks to acquire a second television station. This transaction represents the entire deal. There are no other assets being transferred such that the Hartford situation can be viewed as “incidental” to a broader multi-market transaction. This is new ground for the Commission, and I do not expect this type of waiver to be granted in the future absent the same circumstances that justify the instant waiver.
However, unlike previous broadcast transactions with which I have disagreed, this decision contains affirmative public interest benefits justifying the transfer of the station license to Tribune. First, and most important, is that this decision ensures that Hartford will not lose a television station that otherwise may go dark. While I am not pleased that this station, along with a second station in Hartford, will be controlled by Tribune, I have previously stated that I would be willing to support such ownership structures under certain limited circumstances.1 Second, the Order identifies additional potential benefits flowing from this license transfer, including improvements to local programming and greater levels of investment in the weaker station. These steps, while not dispositive, further establish that the public interest ultimately is served by this transaction.
My concurrence in this license transfer is also predicated on the Commission’s express requirement that Tribune will use “best efforts” to sell one or more of its properties to come into compliance with our rules in the next six months. “Best efforts” is a meaningful and well-established standard in commercial law, and Tribune should not anticipate receiving additional time beyond this six month period. For the foregoing reasons, I concur in the license transfer of WTXX from Tiberius Broadcasting to Tribune.