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Rev. Jesse Jackson urges FCC to approve WADL sale

In a letter sent to the FCC's top commissioner, the activist said it was beyond time for the agency to act on the matter.

In a letter sent to the FCC's top commissioner, the activist said it was beyond time for the agency to act on the matter.

An aerial photograph shows the television studios of Adell-owned WADL-TV in Detroit. (Courtesy photo)
An aerial photograph shows the television studios of Adell-owned WADL-TV in Detroit. (Courtesy photo)

A leading national activist is urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to act on the proposed sale of a Detroit-area television station to a business affiliated with Nexstar Media Group, saying the matter has been held up at the agency for far too long.

On Friday, Reverend Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow Push Coalition sent a letter to FCC Chairperson Jessica Rosenworcel, restating comments he and other activists have made over the past few months while meeting with her and other FCC commissioners about the sale of WADL (Channel 38) to Mission Broadcasting.

DOCUMENT: Read the letter sent by Rev. Jesse Jackson to the FCC [Pro Access]

The sale has been pending since last May, when Mission Broadcasting and WADL owner Kevin Adell announced the transaction. The FCC must sign off on business-related transactions involving licensed broadcast television stations, and numerous cable and satellite television industry groups have taken that opportunity to file informal objections at the FCC concerning the sale.

Those industry group say the transaction is intended to benefit Nexstar more than Mission, and note that all of Mission’s licensed television stations are entirely operated by Nexstar through shared services agreements. They also note that Nexstar intends to fully finance the transaction, and is likely to demand higher carriage fees from cable and satellite companies once the sale goes through.

Nexstar is not allowed to directly acquire WADL because of federal ownership caps that limit the reach of any individual broadcaster to 38 percent of the American television viewing audience. This week, Nexstar filed a legal challenge to the ownership rules after the FCC upheld them last December as part of a quadrennial review of its regulations.

In interviews with The Desk over the past few months, Adell affirmed Nexstar was almost certainly going to operate WADL through a shared service agreement — which allows the company to avoid the ownership cap by technically allowing a third party to serve as the station’s license holder — and said the acquisition by Mission was intended to convert the station into an affiliate of the CW Network. Nexstar acquired a controlling 75 percent stake in the CW Network more than a year ago.

Rev. Jesse Jackson as he appeared in 2013. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Rev. Jesse Jackson as he appeared in 2013. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Jackson and other groups have called for the FCC to approve the sale, saying the $75 million transaction will provide a windfall for WADL’s numerous investors over the years, many of whom are minorities.

On Friday, Jackson said the matter has already been pending at the FCC for nearly a year, and further delays has the potential to impact “the operational capabilities of WADL.”

Jackson noted that the FCC acted quickly to approve Nexstar’s acquisition of KUSI (Channel 51) in San Diego, which was announced around the same time as Mission’s agreement to acquire WADL. After getting approval from the FCC, Nexstar closed on its acquisition of KUSI three months later, something Jackson said was not fair.

“We understand and respect the complexity of regulatory mandates, but it is crucial for the sustainability of trust and fairness in the process that the FCC provides timely communications and equitable treatment to all applicants,” Jackson affirmed.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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