More stations close after FCC crackdown

Broadcast television stations in Nebraska and North Dakota are going dark after the Federal Communications Commission’s move to prevent broadcasters from sharing resources.

Earlier this month, KHAS in Lincoln, Neb., and KNDX and KXND in Bismark, N.D., turned off their lights when deals to sell the stations were blocked by the FCC rules, which limit companies from sharing advertising resources. The three stations would have been sold to Excalibur Broadcasting, but would have required the joint sales agreements to share resources with its previous owner, Gray Television.

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The two Republican commissioners on the FCC, who voted against the regulations earlier this year, said that was proof that the rules are making things worse.

“We hope that Gray Television succeeds in its efforts to find a buyer for KHAS, KNDX, and KXND so these stations can return to the airwaves,” Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly said in a joint statement.

“But it could be difficult for a station to be viable in markets of this size over the long term with neither a major network affiliation nor a sharing agreement. That’s proving to be a feature, not a bug, of the FCC’s new rules.”

This year, the FCC voted 3-2 to crack down on companies that share resources during advertising sales. 

Under the new rules, any company that sells 15 percent or more of a station’s advertising will be considered an owner of the station. That’s a problem because the FCC prevents a single company from owning more than one of the top four broadcast stations in a media market.  

Democrats and public interest groups have said the new rules ensure that companies can’t abuse a loophole to corner the broadcast market, but Republicans and the broadcast industry has warned it will force stations to close.

Earlier this year, broadcast giant Sinclair announced it would shutter two stations in Birmingham, Ala., and one in Charleston, N.C., which critics saw as vindication of their claims.