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AK Broadcasters to FCC: more talk

Egan sparks call for informational hearing in GCI station buy

Posted: March 30, 2013 - 11:08pm

A group of Alaska broadcasters have stepped up their demands in the wake of a letter to the FCC from Juneau’s Sen. Dennis Egan. They ask for a hearing before the Federal Communications Commission. In his letter and subsequent comments, Egan said he felt more information was needed before the FCC approved General Communications Inc.’s permit to take over ownership of Anchorage CBS affiliate KTVA, Juneau’s low-powered NBC affiliate KATH and its sister NBC station in Sitka KSCT.

General Communications Inc. announced in November 2012 its intent to purchase the two Southeast stations from North Star Television Network. Dan Etulain established KATH in 1998.

The 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. They filed the petition March 1.

GCI filed its reply to the FCC on March 22.

GCI spokesperson David Morris has called the petition to deny “skewed to outright wrong” and “pretty outrageous.”

“There is no reason to have a hearing,” GCI’s Morris said.

The rights and regulations of station ownership are on GCI’s side, Morris said. The acquisition will not affect choice for Juneau’s television viewers, he said.

“This transaction complies with FCC rules, serves the public interest and should be granted in the normal course,” Morris said in an email interview. “The Petitioners have provided no basis to do otherwise. We believe Outside (sic) owners of those stations are simply scared of an Alaska-based company that will put their money where their words are.”

GCI’s response was not well received by the petitioners. In reply, the broadcasters said GCI offered little of substance in its filing. Andy MacLeod, president and general manager of Northern Lights Media, called it “non-responsive” in a letter to his staff. Northern Lights, owner of KTUU, filed the original petition to deny, along with Coastal Television Broadcasting Company LLC, Ketchikan TV, LLC and Vision Alaska I & II, LLC.

The broadcasters said GCI did not deny allegations that it planned to push aside over-the-air broadcasting in favor of its cable television system. Therefore FCC should hold a hearing to delve into GCI’s intentions for its new broadcast stations, they said.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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