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GALE B/CASTING CO., INC. (Assignor) and WGN CONTINENTAL FM CO. (Assignee), For Assignment of Licensee of Station WFMT, Chicago, Illinois

 

BALH-1039, Public Notice

 

12 Rad. Reg. 2d (P & F) 809

 

March 27, 1968

 


 

JUDGES:

 

The Commission by Chairman Hyde and Commissioners Lee, Cox, Loevinger, and Wadsworth, with Commissioner Johnson dissenting and issuing a statement, granted the above named applications on March 27, 1968.

 


 

DISSENTBY: NICHOLAS JOHNSON

 

DISSENT:

 

   DISSENTING OPINION OF COMMISSIONER NICHOLAS JOHNSON

 

Before the Federal Communications Commission in this matter is a request by WGN Continental FM Company for a grant without hearing of its application to buy the license for WFMT (FM). The Commission has decided to grant the request. I must dissent.

 

WFMT operates on one of the most desirable FM frequencies in the Chicago metropolitan area. Outstanding direction by owner and station manager Bernard Jacobs, who is now forced to divest himself of operating responsibility for reasons of health, has established WFMT as one of the leading FM's in Chicago and in the nation.

 

Transferee-WGN Continental FM Company is a subsidiary of the Tribune Company, which commands one of the nation's most extensive communications empires. The company's holdings are concentrated principally in Chicago. Each weekday 832,146 Chicagoans read the Chicago Tribune over breakfast; in the afternoon 439,360 residents of the city read the Chicago American, a second newspaper published by the Tribune Company. The Sunday figures for the two papers are 1,158,975 and 494,503 respectively. In addition, the Company owns WGN-AM and WGN-TV. WGN-TV (net weekly circulation 2,262,400) is the area's only independent VHF; the other three are owned and operated by the three national networks.

 

Outside Chicago, the Company's communications interests extend to all sectors of the nation, through the wholly-owned Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate, which furnishes comic strip columns and variety and other features to more than 1700 newspapers. The Company publishes the New York Daily News, which boasts a larger readership than any newspaper in the world (2.1 million daily; 3.1 million for the Sunday edition). It also controls four Florida newspapers the Fort Lauderdale News, the Pompano Beach Sun Sentinel, and the Orlando Sentinel and Evening Star. In terms of circulation, the Tribune Company of Chicago is the nation's single largest newspaper chain, with 3,677,950 weekday readers and 5,026,999 Sunday readers. (All figures are drawn from Editor & Publisher's 1967 Yearbook.)

 

As a broadcast multiple-owner, the Tribune Company also cuts an imposing national figure. It owns the licenses for WPIX-FM and WPIX-TV of New York City, KDAL-TV and KDAL-AM of Duluth, Minnesota, KWGN-TV of Denver, Colorado, and WICC of Bridgeport, Connecticut. It is also acquiring interests in CATV systems in Michigan and California.

 

The Tribune Company is itself principally controlled by the McCormick family, which is prominent in Chicago in social, economic, and political circles, and which, through other corporations, controls significant interests outside the communications field.

 

Just yesterday, on March 26, 1968, this Commission testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly of its continuing allegiance to long-held FCC policies designed to "promote diversification of control of the media of mass communications". Statement of Rosel H. Hyde, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission, before the Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on S. 1312, The Failing Newspaper Act. Yet today we turn around and approve this important addition to the Chicago holdings of the Chicago Tribune -- without a hearing.

 

The Department of Justice felt called upon to investigate thoroughly the antitrust implications of this proposed acquisition. The Department ultimately decided against a court action. But this hardly excuses the FCC's disinterest in an investigation of its own through the hearing process. The Commission's responsibility to disapprove broadcast transfers which threaten "the public interest" is far broader than the Department's authority to prosecute commercial arrangements which "restrain trade" or "tend to lessen competition".

 

For the FCC the relevant market is the market-place of ideas. This acquisition by the Tribune may not threaten competition in Chicago's mass advertising market enough to warrant a suit under the Antitrust Laws. Nevertheless, it could well produce an unsound level of concentration in the production and supply of what Chicagoans see, read, and hear about affairs in their community, in the nation, and in the world.

 

Indeed, the Commission is itself considering the promulgation of a regulation which would proscribe any individual entity from acquiring inore than a single broadcast service in a given area. Under this rule, the transfer which we have today allowed to pass without so much as a hearing, would be defined as inherently and on its face contrary to the public interest. Presumably, if the Commission rates multiple ownership in a single market a sufficient evil to consider the adoption of a general prohibition binding on all cases, then the degree of concentration present in the particular case before us warrants at least the sort of second look it would get in a hearing.

 


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