Sen. Dennis Egan has asked the Federal Communications Commission to take a deeper look at General Communication Incorporated’s intent to purchase low-power Southeast stations KATH-TV and KSCT-TV.
“I want to make it very clear that I have nothing against GCI. It is a great corporate citizen.” Egan said. “I’m just really worried about free over-the-air television. I just don’t know how it is going to work.”
GCI is required to respond to the petition by March 15. The FCC will then make an initial ruling, which could come as early as March 22, MacLeod said. If the commission approves the petition the process could go on for more than half a year.
General Communications Inc. announced in November 2012 its intent to purchase two low-power NBC stations in Southeast Alaska, Juneau’s KATH-TV and KSCT-TV Sitka, from North Star Television Network. Dan Etulain established KATH in 1998. A majority of Alaska’s over-the-air broadcasters petitioned the FCC to either prevent GCI’s acquisition or to impose conditions on GCI’s purchase to prevent the telecom and cable company from monopolizing Alaska’s cable service and airwaves.Currently KTUU provides Juneau its NBC broadcast feed.
“Who does a good job of news on television,” Egan asked. “KTUU they are the only ones. That worries me.”
Egan said the FCC could help clear the fog of rumors and questions about the acquisition if it held a hearing. He said constituents from around his district have voiced concern.
“I don’t think enough information is given out,” Egan said. “Let over the air television stations that are going to be affected to testify. What could that hurt?”
Juneau’s television viewers will still have choice in their programming “and we believe they are intelligent enough to switch channels if they don’t like what they are viewing,” GCI spokesperson David Morris said.
Concerns that Juneau and the Southeast region might suffer reduced quality of programming if GCI purchases KATH and KSCT are unfounded, Morris said.
GCI has released its response to the broadcasters’ FCC petition to deny. Alaska “suffers from a stunning lack of broadcast competition, local news diversity, and technological innovation,” according to GCI’s response. “GCI will invest heavily in local programming, more than doubling KTVA’s news offerings, hiring dozens of full-time news employees, and launching Alaska’s first high-definition local news.”
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