In re Applications of METROMEDIA, INC., ASSIGNOR AND A. S. ABELL CO., ASSIGNEE EVERETT L. DILLARD, TR/AS COMMERCIAL RADIO EQUIPMENT CO., ASSIGNOR AND METROMEDIA, INC., ASSIGNEE For assignment of licenses of WCBM-FM, Baltimore, Md., and WASH-FM, Washington, D.C.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
13 F.C.C.2d 756 (1968)
June 18, 1968
[*756] THE COMMISSION, BY COMMISSIONERS HYDE, CHAIRMAN; LEE AND WADSWORTH, WITH COMMISSIONER BARTLEY ABSENT, COMMISSIONER COX NOT PARTICIPATING, COMMISSIONER LOEVINGER CONCURRING IN THE RESULT AND COMMISSIONER JOHNSON DISSENTING AND ISSUING A STATEMENT, GRANTED ASSIGNMENT OF LICENSE OF STATION WCBM-FM, BALTIMORE, MD., FROM METROMEDIA, INC. TO THE A. S. ABELL CO., AND ASSIGNMENT OF LICENSE OF STATION WASH-FM, WASHINGTON, D.C. FROM EVERETT L. DILLARD TR/AS COMMERCIAL RADIO EQUIPMENT CO. TO METROMEDIA, INC.
BALTIMORE-WASHINGTON STATION OWNERSHIP
[Application for assignment of license of WCBM (FM), Baltimore, Md., from Metromedia, Inc., to The A. S. Abell Co., and WASH (FM), Washington, D.C., from Everett L. Dillard to Metromedia, Inc.]
By this single action the FCC is, once again, further exacerbating the
growing concentration of control of the mass media in our country. It is today
needlessly adding to the growing power of not one, but two, media owners, and
further diminishing diversity and local control in two major markets:
Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C., our Nation's Capital.
It requires little more than a brief recitation of the facts of this case -- who is buying what from whom to add to what -- to highlight its evils. I have recently spelled out some of the reasons for national concern more fully in an article, "The Media Barons and the Public Interest," The Atlantic Monthly (June 1968).
[*757] Baltimore is essentially a three-VHF, two-newspaper market. As is increasingly the case throughout our country, none of the VHF stations is locally owned by interests independent of newspapers. WBAL-TV (channel 11), the NBC affiliate, is owned by Hearst -- one of the Nation's largest mass media owners, not a local resident, and the publisher of the Baltimore News-American in the same market! It also controls WBAL-AM and WBAL-FM. WJZ-TV (channel 13), the ABC affiliate, is owned by Westinghouse -- one of the classic examples of conglomerate corporate control of broadcasting, a multiple-station owner, and not a local resident. WMAR-TV (channel 2), the CBS affiliate, is owned by A. S. Abell Co., the owner of the only other Baltimore papers, the morning and evening Baltimore Sun, as well as WBOC-TV-AM-FM in nearby Salisbury, Md.
The ownership of the mass media in Washington, D.C., is in a similarly concentrated state of affairs. There are four VHF stations. None are owned by local residents other than newspapers! WMAL-TV (channel 7), the ABC affiliate, is owned by the interests which own the major evening paper, the Evening Star, WMAL-AM, and WMAL-FM. WRC-TV (channel 4), the NBC affiliate, is owned by RCA/NBC -- the national network which also owns WRC-AM and WRC-FM. WTOP-TV (channel 9), the CBS affiliate, is owned by the same interests which control the city's morning newspaper, the Washington Post, as well as WTOP-AM and WTOP-FM. The fourth VHF, WTTG (channel 5), is owned by Metromedia. (The other daily newspaper, the Washington Daily News, is owned by Scripps-Howard, one of the largest newspaper publishing and broadcasting owners in the country.)
In one of the two applications approved today, Metromedia, Inc., one of the Nation's largest owners of profitable broadcast properties (five television stations and 12 radio stations in major markets), is selling its Baltimore FM station, WCBM-FM, to A. S. Abell Co. As a contingent application, Metromedia wishes to acquire an FM station in Washington, D.C., where it already owns one of the four VHF television stations. The FM station Metromedia is acquiring is WASH, now a locally owned station.
Thus at a time when there is increasing concern expressed by the Congress and others about the ownership of mass media and the role that mass media plays in our national life, this Commission approves the transfer of an FM station in Baltimore from Metromedia, a large national media holder, to A. S. Abell Co., the present owner of a TV station and two newspapers in Baltimore; and contingently allows Metromedia to replace the station with another FM station acquired from a local owner in Washington, D.C., where Metromedia already owns a TV station.
The chief of the Commission's Broadcast Bureau has sought to justify approving this action by noting that two AM-FM combinations are broken up by this action and approval is therefore consistent with the Commission's proposed rules to limit ownership of media in a single market (FCC 68-332, 33 F.R. 5315, Apr. 3, 1968). Closer examination reveals this justification to be a transparent attempt to rationalize [*758] recommendations arrived at for other reasons. The proposed rules would prospectively prohibit joint ownership of more than one full-time broadcast station in a given area. The sale of the Baltimore FM from Metromedia to A. S. Abell Co. does break up the joint ownership of a full-time AM and a full-time FM by Metromedia in Baltimore. However the full-time FM is transferred to the present owner of a full-time TV station, an arrangement which would clearly be prohibited by the contemplated rules. There is certainly no gain under this proposed standard in Baltimore -- and there is probably a loss since a joint AM-FM is less undesirable than an FM-VHF-TV-newspaper combination which we here establish. In Washington there is a clear loss WASH is owned by the owner of WDON, a daytime-only AM station in Wheaton, Md., a nearby suburb. Since WDON is a daytime-only station, the combination with WASH does not come within the purview of the proposed rules. But the transfer of WASH to the owner of WTTG, a television station, clearly would be prohibited. There may be reasons why the majority thinks this set of approvals is in the public interest, but is not because approval is consistent with the Commission's proposal in the pending rulemaking.
One grows weary at heart at the majority's blind encouragement of the rampaging rush to control of America's mass media in case after case. Their reasons are difficult to fathom. Mine have been spelled out far too often to warrant repetition one again. The case speaks for itself. I dissent.