FCC sets duopoly lottery in 4-1 vote

CBS upset over decision

WASHINGTON — Broadcasters may want to start rubbing their lucky rabbits’ feet now that the FCC has decided it will use a lottery to decide who can buy a second station in some markets.

The lottery, announced Tuesday, would be used only in cases where there is not enough room to grant permission for all duopolies in a given market.

Under the FCC’s new rules, a broadcaster may buy another station in the same market — but only when the deal would leave at least eight independently owned stations in the market.

No lining up

CBS had argued that permission to grant a waiver should be approved on a first-come, first-served basis (Daily Variety, Oct. 19). The Eye web also argued it is in line for such a waiver, since it has announced its intention to merge with Viacom and its Paramount Station Group, which would create duopolies in two markets.

In another blow to CBS, the FCC said it would grant priority to applications from stations in local marketing agreements. Under an LMA, one station manages another station in the same market — and there are more than 80 of those arrangements around the country. The FCC also ruled that it would count current LMAs as a single voice when adding up all voices in a market.

Consumer groups spinning

Public interest advocates also opposed the lottery. David Honig of the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council asked the FCC to award preferences based on which broadcaster would agree to spin off properties to “socially or economically disadvantaged” citizens.

The FCC approved the decision to hold lotteries in a 4-1 vote, with Harold Furchtgott-Roth dissenting. Furchtgott-Roth said the procedure “is simply unworkable, and will likely lead to the abrogation of ownership rights based on seemingly arbitrary factors.”