Current Online

Appeals court clears one challenge to sale of Buffalo TV channel

Originally published in Current, June 11, 2001
By Steve Behrens

Giving a long-awaited but inconclusive win to Western New York Public Broadcasting Association (WNED), the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., upheld on June 1 [2001] an FCC action that will help the licensee sell its second TV channel.

The FCC's action, sought by WNED in 1998 and approved in May 2000, was to swap the status of the licensee's two Buffalo TV channels. The commission removed the noncommercial reservation on the weaker Channel 23, which WNED is selling, and placed it on the previously unreserved, stronger Channel 15, which the licensee will keep. In January WNED leased Channel 23 to LIN Broadcasting, which is operating it as a commercial station. LIN has agreed to buy Channel 23 for $26.2 million. (An earlier sales agreement with Sinclair Broadcast Group fell through when approval was delayed.)

David Honig, Washington-based attorney for the Coalition for Noncommercial Media, which is working against the sale, said the FCC still must rule on the coalition's petition to deny all of the licensee's licenses. The coalition has become the Buffalo chapter of Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting, a national media-reform group that grew out of a similar controversy in Pittsburgh.

WNED Senior Vice President Dick Daly says the station still suffers from the loss of more than $2 million a year in state funding. The station has said it will use the sale proceeds to help it convert to digital transmission and to make new programming, among other things.

But Michael Niman, chair of the opposing coalition and a professor at SUNY Buffalo, says more programming is not what Buffalo needs. The city has "a ton of community-produced programming," Niman says. "We don't need more programming — we need more bandwidth."


. To Current's home page
. Earlier news: In another case, Pittsburgh's major pubcaster continues to attempt to sell its second channel.
. Related story: WNED undertakes a major arts initiative: an annual national guitar festival starting in June 2001.
. Outside link: Court's decision on its website.
. Outside links: WNED, Coalition for Noncommercial Media, and Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting.

Web page posted June 23, 2001
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