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Name: Federal Communications Commission Age: 78 Occupation: federal regulators of the media Last Seen: Washington, DC Bee-otched For: not being tough on duopolies
A long, long time ago, the National Hockey League only had six teams. Naturally, NHL rules stated that each owner could only have one team. But, one man bent the rules.
James Norris was the owner of the Detroit Red Wings. Despite being one of the most-legendary owners of the NHL, he might have been one of the most-unfair. In 1944, longtime rival Chicago Blackhawks owner Fredric McLaughlin passed away, and his estate sold the team to team president Bill Tobin. However, it was later discovered that Tobin was nothing more than an owner in name only. Norris was the true owner of the Blackhawks; he was also the owner of Chicago Stadium, the 'Hawks' home. The result was that between 1944 and 1958, they only made the playoffs two times. The Blackhawks were the laughing stock of all hockey. Norris died in 1952, and eventually, the Wirtz family - who still owns the team today - gained control of the franchise.
Today, no major sports league allows one owner to own two teams. True, they don't have issues with somebody owning, let's say, a baseball team and a hockey team at the same time, but if the current owner of the Red Wings, pizza tycoon Mike Ilitch were to do the same thing to the Blackhawks' current owner Rocky Wirtz and use him as a puppet, there could be stiff penalties and both the Red Wings and Blackhawks would end up chastised.
Sadly, the case with television is different. In 1996, the Federal Communications Commission loosened their rules on media ownership. Now, one company could own two AM stations, six FMs and two TV outlets all in the same area. But, it all depended on how many stations there are in the area. In the case of television, the two TV station rule only applies to stations in bigger markets, like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Detroit. In the Motor City, CBS owns CBS station WWJ-TV 62 and WKBD CW 50. The duopoly is legal because one station is in the top four ratings and one isn't. If one company were to own, let's say the CBS and NBC affiliates in the same market, it would be illegal since they would overly control the market share of the televised media in the same region.
Even here in Grand Rapids, we have a triopoly with LIN Media owning NBC station WOOD-TV 8, WOTV 41 (ABC) and WXSP, which airs My Network TV. Even that's considered legal, since WOOD-TV's their only property that covers the whole area. WOTV only covers the southern portion of the west Michigan market and WXSP is a bunch of low-powered stations.
But some broadcasters are using the James Norris example to get their way.
Take Granite Broadcasting for an example. They have duopolies in Duluth, MN and Fort Wayne, IN. In Duluth, they own KBJR-6 (NBC), but operate KDLH-3 (CBS). In Fort Wayne, they own WISE-33 (NBC) but operate WPTA-21 (ABC). The company that "owns" WDLH and WPTA is Malara Broadcasting. Rumor has it that Malara is nothing more than a shell company for Granite, since their SEC filings are made at the same time, plus the fact that WDLH and WPTA are their sole properties.
Even that influence is made in northern Michigan, where I'm originally from. Five years ago, local Fox affiliate WFQX-33 (now at 32 thanks to the digital changeover) was sold from New York-based Rockfleet Broadcasting to Cadillac Telecasting, which is actually owned by a 69-year-old man from Sun City, AZ named Alexander Bolea. Cadillac entered a Shared Services Agreement with Heritage Broadcasting, the parent of CBS affiliate WWTV 9&10. Oddly enough, Iacobelli owns a lot of property in the Grand Canyon state. Coincidence? Maybe.
Not long after WWTV and WFQX's merger, NBC affiliate WPBN 7&4 merged with WGTU ABC 29&8. WGTU is owned by another Arizonian, Ben Tucker while that station is operated and WPBN is owned by Chicago-based Barrington Broadcasting. WGTU was previously owned by Max Media, which was partly owned by the family of televangelist Pat Robertson.
For years, WWTV and WPBN were the leaders in northern Michigan in terms of ratings, while WGTU and WFQX were the laughing stock. The latter never had decent newscasts and even WGTU lost top-rated syndicated shows like Live! With Regis and Kelly, Oprah, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! to both WWTV and WPBN. True, the SSA deals gave WGTU and WFQX overall better quality in terms of on-air image and even newscasts, their programming started to suffer.
While WPBN/WGTU tend to reach out to the female crowd with Oprah-produced Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, The Doctors and Rachael Ray, WWTV/WFQX tends to suffer programming-wise, even though both stations are the homes in northern Michigan for Live!, Ellen, Anderson and The Peoples Court. Then again, 9&10 has always had the top news department in northern Michigan, and the ratings prove it.
But that's the problem with only two station owners in town. Not all the most-popular syndicated fare is aired. Just ask Maury Povich and Jerry Springer.
Yep! Neither one of their shows air in northern Michigan, and apparently, neither Barrington nor Heritage are interested. Previously, Fox 32 aired Maury but when Heritage took over that station's operations, they demoted it to the wee hours of the morning, namely 3 a.m. They also aired Jerry in the past, but it was canceled when Rockfleet owned it. However, while the switchover was occurring, Fox 32 added on more infomercials and even worse, The 700 Club. Previously, that show aired on 29&8 but dumped it when Barrington took the station over. Now, instead of knowing who the babydaddy is, TV viewers in northern Michigan can give Pat Robertson their life savings or else they will rot in hell.
Even though northern Michigan's full-powered stations only have two operators, there's still two smaller stations in MyNetworkTV affiliate WLLZ-12 and independent WMNN-26, which airs a mix of news, movies and old TV shows on their three subchannels. But, there's no Jerry or Maury there, either. WLLZ does air Family Guy, American Dad!, My Name is Earl and How I Met Your Mother but they also air crappy old shows through once-promising classic TV network RTV such as The Adventures of Black Beauty and The Campbells, which was a Scottish TV series from the 80's.
So, thanks to the FCC's botched duopoly laws, people in northern Michigan don't have a lot of choices when it comes to syndicated programming (the fact that both companies re-broadcast each station's sisters on their .2 channels don't help, either. Thanks to that, there's no station up north carrying the likes of MeTV, Antenna TV, TheCoolTV, This TV and other neat channels that make cable worthless). Hell, even MARQUETTE's programming choices are better than that of northern Michigan's these days! Twenty years ago, it was just WJMN-3 (CBS, a simulcast of WFRV-5 Green Bay) and WLUC-6 (which carried both NBC and ABC). Today, WJMN is on their own and WLUC is full-blown NBC while ABC is now on WBUP-10. WLUC also has Fox on 6.2, and they even have Jerry and Maury. There's even The CW on WBKP-5 and WZMQ-19 has MyNetworkTV, ThisTV, Antenna TV and MeTV. Phew!
Oh, and WLUC is owned by Barrington. Sad.
I find it pathetic that programming-wise, northern Michigan is now the laughing stock of TV in the whole state of Michigan. They can't watch Springer but they can watch an old billionaire beg for money with a Bible in his hand or a 30-minute infomercial for a fucking pillow. What might be funnier is that only two secular stations in Michigan carry The 700 Club. Yet, northern Michigan is the only market left in the state not carrying either Springer nor Maury. I'll betcha it's because their excuse is content reasons. Personally, if I had a kid, I'd rather have my young kid watch two lezbos wrestle in Jello over an old man telling another man to become a Muslim so he can beat his wife.
Personally, I think the only thing people in northern Michigan can do is write to the FCC to do an investigation. I think there's major problems with these duopolies and it's causing TV viewers to have less choice. For a mid-sized TV market, northern Michigan is an abortion.
But hey! Dr. Oz taught me how to poop better!
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