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FCC allows shield of TV merger data

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The Federal Communications Commission has ruled that much of the documentation being filed in a challenge of the merger of the news operations of KGMB-TV, KHNL-TV and KFVE-TV cannot be made public.

The Media Council Hawaii, a media watchdog group, asked the FCC in October 2009 to stop the merger of three of the state’s five largest television stations out of concern that it would reduce competition among news outlets. The three stations, which share the Hawaii News Now name, announced the merger of news and business operations in August 2009.

The FCC asked Raycom and HITV, licensees of the three stations, for further information regarding the terms of their shared services agreement. The companies responded earlier this month but asked for confidential treatment of certain financial details.

The FCC agreed, saying the information will only be shared with the parties involved in the case.

"Only the attorneys are allowed to have access," said Chris Conybeare, president of Media Council Hawaii.

The FCC order details what types of documents will be treated as confidential, who will have access to them and who will have access only to redacted versions.

"While we are mindful of the sensitive nature of this data, we also acknowledge the right of all parties to participate in a meaningful way in this proceeding," said William T. Lake, chief of the FCC Media Bureau, in a protective order released yesterday.

Conybeare said the information being submitted to the FCC, while shielded from public view, "will help them (the FCC) make the right decision — in our favor … to declare that this whole (shared services agreement) violates FCC rules, issue a cease and desist, or order them to show cause why they should continue to hold their broadcast licenses."

Hawaii News Now General Manager Rick Blan­giardi declined comment on FCC-related matters.

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