Appeals court gives Sinclair stay on LMAs

Jun 25, 2001  •  Post A Comment

A federal appeals court in Washington last week stayed a Federal Communications Commission requirement that Sinclair Broadcast Group break up in August at least three of the TV station combinations it holds through local marketing agreements.
The FCC duopoly rule provision at issue required the elimination of LMAs entered into after Nov. 5, 1996, in markets served by fewer than eight independent full-power TV stations.
The stay is good until after the court resolves a Sinclair lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the FCC’s duopoly rules. Oral arguments in that case are scheduled for January.
The court’s action augurs well for Sinclair’s lawsuit because the court only stays regulations it believes are likely to be thrown out.
“We view it as a favorable event,” said Barry Faber, Sinclair vice president and general counsel.
In its lawsuit, Sinclair is charging that the duopoly rules, which bar broadcasters from owning more than one TV station in a market unless they qualify for an exception under criteria adopted by the agency in 1999, run afoul of the Constitution.
The affected LMAs are Fox affiliate WRGT-TV in Dayton, Ohio, where Sinclair owns NBC affiliate WKEF-TV; Fox affiliate WVAH-TV in Charleston, W.Va., where Sinclair owns ABC affiliate WCHS-TV; and Fox affiliate WTAT-TV in Charleston, S.C., where Sinclair owns UPN affiliate WMMP-TV.
Sinclair officials said Fox affiliate WTTE-TV, their LMA in Columbus, Ohio (where Sinclair owns ABC affiliate WSYX-TV), could also be affected, depending on how the FCC chooses to interpret an LMA’s effective date.