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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 20, 2010

Watchdog asks FCC to revoke licenses of KGMB, KHNL, K5 TV stations

By Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer

A local media watchdog group today called for the revocation of the broadcast licenses of KGMB, KHNL and K5 television stations, saying the newsroom merger between three of Hawaii's five largest stations is an "egregious violation" of federal law.

At a news conference, Media Council Hawaii said the newsroom merger, branded as Hawaii News Now, violates laws barring multiple ownership of television stations in a single market.

"Raycom has basically taken control of three stations in the market and we urge the FCC to act on its ownership rules and revoke their broadcast licenses," said Adrienne Biddings, staff attorney for Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown Law. The Washington, D.C-based institute represents the Media Council.

Raycom officials had no immediate comment.

Documentation for the newsroom merger, which were recently made public after The Advertiser filed a Freedom of Information Act request, show that the deal is in fact a sale, said Chris Conybeare, the Media Council's president.

The records show that Alabama-based Raycom, owner of KGMB and KHNL stations, will receive more than 90 percent of the cash flows of the three stations and will handle nearly all of the operations of the three stations, including sales functions, news gathering, promotions and back-office support.

"(They) clearly show that the Raycom deal in Hawaii is one of the most egregious violations of public trust and FCC rules," Conybeare said. Federal law bars multiple ownership of television stations in single market, unless the FCC grants a waiver to do so.

In October, Raycom merged the newsrooms of K5 and local NBC affiliate KHNL with that of local CBS affiliate KGMB, resulting in the termination of a third of the stations' staff and the simulcasting of some news programs. Raycom said at the time that the merger with KGMB was needed to prevent one or two of the stations from going under as the local television advertising market had fallen by $20 million, or about 30 percent.

Reach Rick Daysog at rdaysog@honoluluadvertiser.com