For years, I’ve been noting my absolute contempt for these “so-called” Shared Services Agreements. I made my feelings known in particular with the merger between WSTM & WTVH in Syracuse, New York. For those of you who didn’t read it, here’s a link to my blog entry in March.
Well finally, an opposition has been filed in one of these agreements. In Honolulu, Hawai’i; a group has challenged one of these agreements and has retained a Washington lawyer to fight it.
Media Council Hawaii has made the objection to the Shared Services Agreement between CBS-affiliate KGMB-TV, NBC-affiliate KHNL-TV and KFVE-TV, an independent station. KHNL/KFVE is owned by Montgomery, Alabama-based, Raycom Media. KGMB is owned by MCG Capital Corporation, a hedge fund operator out of Arlington, Virginia.
The agreement will have KGMB move in to KHNL/KFVE facilities, merge news and other operations while advertising functions remain separate.
The group has filed an objection with the Federal Communications Commission and is inviting public comment at upcoming forums. For too long, it has been purely routine that sales involving broadcast stations are made without looking at how it impacts the communities they serve.
In this case, KHNL has started a cascade of layoffs of high-profile on-camera personnel as well as behind-the-scenes employees, including nearly all videographers in KHNL’s news department. The loss of the news department stands to allow less objectivity in the media. Job losses will reflect negatively on the local economy.
These TV stations are not merely businesses. These are public airwaves, owned and licenced by the government. Questions should be asked to the potential buyer(s). They should be asked in regards to operating in the public interest, delivering a public service, the ability to operate the TV station financially, and other issues. And in all of these transactions, there have been no objection by the FCC or public opposition, until now.
As I’ve said before, more scrutiny needs to be made on these transactions. It shouldn’t be a formality.