February 9th, 2001
On February 9th, The Coalition for Noncommercial media filed a complaint with the FCC asking that the commission, pursuant to revocation authority under Section 312 of the Communications Act, require WNYPBA to file early applications to renew all of their broadcast licenses. Our complaint alleges that WNYPBA has lost its way as a provider of public television as evidenced by their allowing the broadcast of commercial TV fare (such as "Shopping Channel" style programs) and commercials on WNEQ. Click here to see our complaint
February 1, 2001
We find this struggle to be of particular importance as the loss of Channel 23 will not be compensated for by the addition of new digital frequencies in the foreseeable future, as was promised by WNYPBA when they first proposed selling channel 23.
January 5th 2001
Western New York Public Broadcasting filed a request with the FCC to sell WNEQ to Lin Broadcasting in December, going into the holiday season. We learned of the request just after Christmas. Our legal response was due on January 5th. WNYPBA is not operating in the holiday spirit by trying to sneak this through the FCC at a time when it would be difficult to respond. And it was difficult to respond, but we managed to put together a 35+ page "Petition to Deny" and file it on January 5th. Yes, we slipped in under just the wire with this one. The result is that the legal struggle of the people of Western New York to protect public television from privatization is continuing on. Darts to WNYPBA for pulling a move like this. Kudos to the volunteers from the Coalition for Public Broadcasting for pulling a strong response together over the holidays. And a big Thank You to our tireless attorney, David Honig for his work in putting our legal response in place!
Western New York Public Broadcasting Association has announced the proposed sale of Channel 23 to LIN Broadcasting, owners of channel 4 in Buffalo, for $26.2 million dollars (see WNYPBA Press Release). This figure represents a sale price that is $6.8 million dollars less than what Sinclair Broadcasting offered for the station in 1998. That sale fell through after legal challenges from CNCM. Sinclair went on to buy a commercially licensed station in the Buffalo UHF market for $51.5 million dollars in August of 2000. This figure represents what channel 23 could be worth once it is legally removed from the public spectrum.
Currently CNCM has filed a challenge to the sale with the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. The challenge is based on the fact that this frequency has been set aside in the public trust for the people of Western New York and hence, cannot be sold to a commercial licensee who would use it for private gain (i.e.. soft drink commercials).
We realize that we are a David fighting against a Goliath. The $26.2 million dollar price tag will provide a windfall for the current administration of WNYPNA. It also represents a tremendous profit for LIN, who is in effect buying the station at half of it's post-sale potential market value. Once removed from the public spectrum, LIN would have the option of keeping their new frequency or selling it for $20+ million dollar profit.
So far, we have been able to block the sale of channel 23. The current sale cannot be completed until after the Federal Court of Appeals hears our case in the spring of 2001. In the interim, WNYPBA is leasing channel 23 to LIN pending the possible sale of the station. We anticipated such a move last year and filed a pre-emptive protest with the FCC asking that they not allow channel 23 to be leased to a commercial operator.
This fight is particularly important since both channel 17 and channel 23 are soon to be assigned digital frequencies with expanded bandwidth. This bandwidth can be used to broadcast high definition signals, varieties of which have not yet been developed, or can be split into several low definition stations. All current TV operators will receive new digital frequencies in what media activists see as a massive frequency give away to predominantly corporate license holders. The fight we are fighting today will determine the face of television for the next generation. We want to see that the public in WNY holds on to it's share of the broadcast spectrum during this crucial period.