A decision by the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission to review so-called "shared service agreements"— under which stations share such functions as news or advertising — could threaten plans by commentator Armstrong Williams to acquire a third television station.
Williams reported in November that he had won approval from the FCC to buy WEYI-TV, an NBC affiliate in the Flint/Saginaw/Bay City/Midland, Mich., market, and WWMB-TV, a CW affiliate in the Myrtle Beach/Florence, S.C., market, near Williams' hometown of Marion, S.C.
The stations were acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., and turned over to Williams under shared service agreements. Opponents see such arrangements as big companies' end runs around ownership limits.
Williams also plans to acquire WMMP-TV in Charleston, S.C., from Sinclair.
The arrangements enable Williams to be one of the last African Americans, if not the last, to own a full-power, commercial television station. In December, the Roberts Broadcasting Co. of St. Louis reached a settlement to sell its three remaining television stations.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler addressed the shared-service issue at a conference of opponents of media consolidation this month in Oakland, Calif. "Shared services agreements that allow broadcasters to use sidecar companies to control key aspects of multiple TV stations in the same market will be coming under closer scrutiny at the FCC, Tom Wheeler, the agency's new chairman, said late Thursday,"Doug Halonen of TVNewsCheck reported on Jan. 10.
Williams' lawyer, Colby May, told Journal-isms by email Tuesday, "Ch. Wheeler's decision to closely review all shared service agreements may impact Armstrong's pending agreement for Charleston, although his previous agreements for Myrtle Beach and Flint are not. They closed months ago and are in effect. Because Armstrong is hands on and produces local Public affairs and community programming — like Town Halls — we are guardedly optimistic even the Charleston deal will be ultimately approved."
Williams told Journal-isms by telephone that he hopes the FCC realizes that "every arrangement is different" and that "when we make our presentation, the FCC will have no choice but to look at us individually and not all together."
In his case, the arrangement "really benefits minorities," Williams said. He said he had already produced 10 or 12 local programs in Myrtle Beach and initiated a community discussion on domestic violence, which is scheduled for a town hall meeting on March 29. A Jan. 20 town hall discussed the Affordable Care Act.
- David Oxenford, Broadcast Law Blog: What's Up With TV Shared Services Agreements?
"Orlando ABC affiliate WFTV is pairing Nancy Alvarez and Jorge Estevez for its evening newscasts on sister station WRDQ,"Merrill Knox reported Monday for TVSpy.
"Alvarez will join Estevez as co-anchor of WRDQ's 10 p.m. newscasts Sunday through Thursday. The pair will also anchor WFTV's 6 and 11 p.m. newscast on Sundays. According to WFTV, they are the first Hispanic team to anchor an English language newscast in Orlando. . . ."