FCC Again Denies Opponents of Entercom-CBS Radio Merger

The FCC in a decision released Thursday refused the challenge of the Entercom-CBS Radio merger over a broadcaster's allegations of "news distortion." A joint Petition for Reconsideration was filed by by Edward R. Stolz II (Stolz) and Deborah J. Naiman (Naiman) on July 26, 2018, seeking reconsideration of the agency's decision denying their Application for Review. In November, 2017, the Media Bureau rejected the arguments raised in the Petitions and Supplements, denied the Petitions and granted the Merger.

Following the approval, Stolz and Naiman then filed an Application for Review (AFR) of the Order, arguing that the Bureau erred by not designating the Merger and Divestiture Applications for evidentiary hearing in response to Petitioners' claim that CBS had engaged in "intentional news distortion" at its television stations, which Petitioners also claim called into question CBS's basic character qualifications to hold any Commission license.

Stolz had challenged the Merger and Divestiture Applications in the Sacramento and San Francisco markets. Naiman challenged only those in the Sacramento market.

The FCC denied the AFR, finding that nothing in Petitioners' claims of news distortion at CBS television stations raised a question about CBS's qualifications to hold the radio station licenses that were the subject of the Merger and Divestiture Applications. On reconsideration, Petitioners argued that the Commission had based its decision to designate the Sinclair-Tribune Applications but not the Merger and Divestiture Applications on Sinclair's status as a "right of center media organization" whereas CBS is "a well-known leftist media organization."

The Commission's rules specifies limited circumstances under which a party may seek reconsideration of a Commission denial of an application for review. Such a petition for reconsideration will be entertained only if the petition "relies on facts or arguments which relate to events which have occurred or circumstances which have changed since the last opportunity to present such matters to the Commission," and/or "relies on facts or arguments unknown to petitioner until after his last opportunity to present them to the Commission, and he could not through the exercise of ordinary diligence have learned of the facts or arguments in question prior to such opportunity."

Upon review of the Petition, the FCC concluded the two developments Petitioners cite do not provide new evidence that would justify reversing its findings in the AFR Order. To the extent that the Petition reiterates arguments regarding CBS's alleged news distortion that Petitioners had raised previously in their AFR, it was dismissed as repetitious and the Petitioners' other claims weree also rejected.


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