In Re Applications by CENTRAL PLAINS ENTERPRISES, INC. (TRANSFEROR) and SCRIPPS-HOWARD BROADCASTING CO. (TRANSFEREE) For Transfer of Control of Station KVOD-TV, Tulsa, Okla.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
26 F.C.C.2d 697
November 27, 1970
The Commission by Commissioners Burch (Chairman), Robert E. Lee, H. Rex Lee, and Wells, with Commissioner Bartley dissenting and Commissioner Johnson dissenting and issuing a statement, authorized transfer of control of station KVOD-TV, from Central Plains Enterprises, Inc. to Scripps Howard Broadcasting Company.
DISSENTING OPINION OF COMMISSIONER NICHOLAS JOHNSON
Today the majority, without opinion or explanation, approves the transfer of another television station to the media holdings of Scripps-Howard. I do not believe the Commission should make the finding that the public interest will be served by this additional concentration of media power without a hearing to weigh the benefits and detriments of its action, and I therefore dissent.
My opinion in this case need only be brief -- a simple detailing of the Scripps-Howard interests raises the principal issue in this case. Scripps-Howard owns the following broadcast properties:
WCPO-TV, Cincinnati, Ohio
WEWS-TV, Cleveland, Ohio
WPTV, Palm Beach, Florida
WMC-TV, Memphis Tenn.
WNOX(AM), Knoxville, Tenn.
WMC (AM), Memphis, Tenn.
WMC(FM), Memphis, Tenn.
The total net weekly circulation of its television stations -- without KVOO-TV -- is 2,792,598. A recent exhibit submitted in another proceeding suggests that Scripps-Howard ranks 15th among Commission licensees in terms of total net weekly circulation. The addition of KVOO-TV would move Scripps-Howard to 13th position. Principals of Scripps-Howard have interests in roughly 30% of the non-voting stock of the Vindicator Printing Company, publisher of the Youngstown (Ohio) Vindicator and licensee of WFMJ-TV, Youngstown. The Edward W. Scripps Trust has a.91% interest in The Evening News Association, publisher of The Detroit News and licensee of WWJ-AM-FM-TV, Detroit; KOLD-TV, Tucson, Arizona and WALA-TV, Mobile, Alabama.
Scripps-Howard's newspaper interests are extensive. They publish 16 daily papers with a total daily circulation of 2.27 million -- almost 4% of all U.S. English-language daily circulation. The following are the Scripps-Howard papers:
Birmingham Post Herald
Denver Rocky Mountain News
District of Columbia:
Washington Daily News
Stuart News (weekly)
Kentucky Post and Times Star (Covington)
(Kentucky edition of Cincinnati Post and Times Star)
Cincinnati Post and Times Star
Knoxville News Sentinel
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Fort Worth Press
El Paso Herald-Post
The majority not only approves this added media power for Scripps-Howard, it also concludes that nothing need be said about the petitions to deny filed against the renewal of WMC-TV, Memphis which are now pending. As the applicant notes in the material filed before the Commission, Scripps-Howard was one of the six companies chosen as part of the pilot project in the FCC's now lagging Conglomerate Inquiry begun almost two years ago. It is impossible to know how the majority believes it can defend approval of this acquisition since it apparently believes no explanation or opinion is necessary. It seems to be the majority's position that a free capital market in station licenses is presumptively in the public interest, and so long as new licensees meet minimum legal, financial and technical qualifications, and do not violate express multiple ownership or other FCC rules, no further inquiry on public interest benefits from sales of licenses is required. I do not believe such presumptions exhaust the Commission's responsibilities where, as in this case, concentration of control of mass media issues are presented.
The absence of formal consumer representation in this case is also instructive. In those cases where petitioners representing the public interest appear, the Commission finds it necessary to explain and rationalize its decision and attempt some articulation of benefits from its approval action. This is so, if for no other reason, because such parties would undoubtedly appeal -- and have reversed by the court -- such cavalier treatment of the Commission's public interest responsibilities. Here no one appears; no explanation is offered; no appeal will be taken.
I do not now say that this sale ought to be disapproved on its merits. But I do dissent from the majority's refusal even to explore in hearing the full public interest implications of this particular change in ownership.