Reports: Nexstar says no to WPIX-NY, WSFL-Miami

If you want to do something well, watch someone else do it. That’s the way to improve in most skills in life.

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That’s one reason I read Scott Jones’ blog, FTVLive.com. Say what you want about him or his spelling, but he’s usually right on the money when it comes to facts, and won’t make claims without backing them up. In other words, I trust what he writes.

This morning, he had two blog posts about the latest attempt to create the nation’s largest local television station owner: Nexstar Media Group’s effort to buy Tribune Media. (Last year, after a lot of opposition, Sinclair Broadcast Group was not allowed to make the purchase.)

When you get this big, things get complicated. The company gets up against against Federal Communications Commission ownership limits, as well as Department of Justice antitrust regulations.

Nexstar owns or operates 174 television stations in 100 mostly small to mid-sized TV markets, reaching nearly 38.7 percent of American households. The limit is 39 percent, and that’s with the FCC’s UHF discount, which only takes half the market’s people into account. Tribune owns or operates 42 stations, including the nation’s biggest cities.

The deal is that Nexstar will pay $4.1 billion for Tribune. Sinclair had offered $3.9 billion but according to USA Today, “breached its contract by misleading regulators during the transaction’s approval process.” Nexstar’s last major purchase was in 2017, when it bought 71 stations from Media General for $4.6 billion.

The ownership limits, which I explained in this post from last March, come into play because two large companies will already own stations in the same markets competing against each other, and will together own too many as a whole. That’s why some stations will need to be sold.

Briefly, the four categories of FCC rules are 1. national TV ownership, 2. local TV multiple ownership, 3. the number of independently owned “media voices” – 4. and at least one of the stations is not ranked among the top four stations in the DMA (that’s the “designated market area” or city, and ranking based on audience share), and at least eight independently owned TV stations would remain in the market after the proposed combination. (Keep in mind, these rules seem to get loosened every time a company comes close to hitting the limit.)

In the case of Nexstar and Tribune, there would be a long list involving about 15 cities. (Nexstar would do well by being honest in its effort to buy Tribune, as opposed to what Sinclair did and had been doing for years.)

sinclair skull and crossbones

Perry Sook, Nexstar’s president and CEO, started the company in 1996 with one station in Scranton, Pa. He has been buying ever since.

“We have no aspirations to be a national anything,” Sook said, according to Variety. “Our company goes from Burlington, Vermont to Honolulu and each of those communities have different needs and different tastes. We do three things that are vitally important: We produce local news content. We deliver entertainment and information. And we help local businesses sell stuff. Those are our reasons to exist.”

That’s contrary to Sinclair, which was reportedly interested in creating a national news network and using must-runs on its stations to spread its ownership’s conservative beliefs.

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Anyway, this morning, Scott wrote,

“Sources tell FTVLive that Nexstar is not planning on keeping WPIX in New York City after it purchases the station as part of the Tribune deal.”

So if Nexstar pretty-much owns so many stations in small to mid-sized TV markets, and claims to be solely interested in local broadcasting (while probably taking advantage of some scale), why leave out a station in the #1 TV market in the country, which itself broadcasts to about a whopping six percent of American households?

WPIX

According to Scott,

“The spinning off of WPIX will help bring Nexstar under the ownership cap and it will likely put a lot of money back into the Nexstar back account.”

I’d rather see competition remain in New York. I can’t imagine Nexstar losing the power of selling ads on stations in every one of the biggest, influential, most lucrative cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington, etc.). And it could probably make money selling off many of its smaller market stations, have fewer people doing the same jobs on payroll, pay less for benefits like health insurance, have less regulatory paperwork to do, etc. But it could possibly achieve what Scott suggested in just one move.

Instead of Nexstar, I dread a New York competitor coming in and gutting WPIX’s news department, which has grown over the years from 30 minutes at 7:30pm and an hour at 10, to include morning and early evening news.

Among competitors, WCBS already owns WLNY (Long Island). WNBC already owns WNJU (Telenundo). WNYW (Fox) bought WWOR and got rid of its news department. That pretty much leaves WABC, which is said to be in the buying mood since owner Disney hasn’t bought stations in years, is not up against ownership limits, and has been said to be interested in Cox’s stations (especially its ABC affiliates in Atlanta, Orlando and Charlotte). A duopoly in New York would be good for WABC, but not the public, which owns the airwaves. But considering the other major stations already own second stations in the Big Apple, could WABC be refused?

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Of course, Disney/ABC is already buying most of 21st Century Fox’s assets, including its TV and movie studios, and cable channels except news and business, for $71 billion. The New York Post reports the closing is expected in February or March, and Sinclair may end up buying Fox’s regional sports networks which Disney can’t keep (it already owns ESPN) and nobody else seems to want them.

The so-called New Fox would consist only of its TV stations, and its news and business cable channels. (Comcast/NBC wanted Fox’s entertainment assets but Disney/ABC offered more. Comcast is ending up with Fox’s share of European telecommunications and pay-TV giant Sky.)

Scott also wrote,

“Along with spinning off WPIX in New York, Nexstar plans on selling off WSFL, the Tribune station in Miami.”

We’ve been through this before. Fox has a great Miami affiliate, WSVN, which is owned by Ed Ansin’s Sunbeam Television Corporation. In the 1980s, he wouldn’t sell to then-affiliate partner NBC, so the peacock bought WTVJ in early 1987 and took away WSVN’s #1 primetime programming on Jan. 1, 1989. WSVN became a Fox affiliate on the few days the new network broadcast back then and put its future into local news, more sensational back then, which has worked out well.

WHDH logo 4Then, just a few years ago, the same thing happened with Sunbeam’s WHDH in Boston. Ansin refused to sell to NBC so the peacock invented a station pretty much from scratch to put its programming. Since Boston already had a Fox affiliate (Miami’s went to CBS in 1989), WHDH is now completely independent, without a network, and worth much less.

Fox TV stationsSo Fox has been selling off assets but is interested in buying TV stations (it had a deal to buy several from Sinclair after its merger with Tribune, which ended up falling through) and rights to live programming, especially sports and especially the National Football League. In the past, Fox wanted stations in cities with NFC teams because it broadcasts NFC team away games on Sunday afternoons. Then, it bought the rights to Thursday Night Football, which includes the whole league, so now it’s interested in stations in cities with AFC teams, like the Miami Dolphins.

I’ve shown you how networks have dumped highly-rated, loyal, long-time affiliate stations and went all-out to own stations in cities around the country, even if it meant starting a news department from nothing, which is exactly what WSFL has when it comes to news.

Why would Nexstar sell Tribune’s only Florida station when it doesn’t have much to show for itself in the Sunshine State? Good question! Nexstar only owns WFLA in Tampa, WKRG in Mobile/Pensacola and WMBB in Panama City. Maybe it knows it could get a great deal from Fox (perhaps part of a multi-station deal where Nexstar and Tribune have too many stations competing), or it knows global warming will have Florida under water sooner rather than later.

 

One thing I disagree on with Scott about Fox possibly buying WSFL is that WSVN would probably not exchange affiliations with that current CW affiliate and become the new one. That’s because CBS is a part owner of The CW and that affiliation would likely go to its second Miami station, WBFS, which would probably mean WSVN ends up with WBFS’ MyNetworkTV affiliation.

On the other hand, Philadelphia MyNetworkTV affiliate WPHL (owned by Tribune) airs off-network syndicated reruns from 8 to 10pm (a great idea!) and its MyNetworkTV obligations (pretty much syndicated dramas) air overnight. It also got rid of the “My” on its logo.

That’s the case because I verified WBFS-Miami and WWOR-New York air the same shows from 8 to 10pm (and Fox owns both WWOR and MyNetworkTV, so the shows will definitely run in pattern).

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Anson’s WHDH – which has been independent for two years – airs Family Feud for an hour at 8 and local news from 9 to 11:35pm. So there are alternatives.

What’s going to happen? Are the reports from Scott true? If so, are they subject to change?

Again, we’ll have to sit back on our couches, and wait and see.

Disappointing news and news coverage

Last night, a woman was shot to death two blocks from my parents (and where I lived from the end of kindergarten, to leaving WSVN and moving to Connecticut, minus my three college years). It happened at about 5pm. I found out when my sister-in-law sent me a TV station’s screen-grab.

Turns out, the victim was a well-known real estate agent, who’d had her face and her dog’s on many bus benches while I was growing up. It happened outside her daughter’s house (same high school, two years older) and the gunman was her estranged son-in-law, who later killed himself.

In the early evening, between 7:30 and 8:30pm, I couldn’t find anything on WSVN’s website, and nonsense with very few facts from the network-owned stations.

WTVJ was a block off and WFOR had no location.

WPLGWPLG had the best coverage, with the right block, and video with a reporter at the scene during its newscast which ended at 6:30. But supposedly, the latest was on a different reporter’s personal, private Facebook page. We never met, but I went to school with his brother years ago, so he’s from the area and has contacts. I found out about his Facebook coverage when I got a call from one of our dozens of mutual friends (28, to be exact), and asked him about it – on Facebook.

Me: “Why did you put Highland Lakes shooting privately on your personal page, but not on your professional page for any interested parties?”

Him: “The station posts on my public”

Me: “I’m sorry. That sucks.”

Him: “Ok sorry”

Me: “I meant for you. I’m sure not everything they’ve posted has been perfect, or the way you would have.”

He doesn’t know what I do and have done for a living, and you see he didn’t realize I felt sorry for him apparently not being able to publish on social media pages that have his name and picture, and depending on others to do it right! His public Facebook page hasn’t been used in almost a month, and his work Twitter account was only used sporadically, not a few times daily like someone with contacts who goes out in the field, working to uncover facts – or simply a trusted reporter who watches the news and has followers who depend on him.

We know people on-air are not decision-makers but they should be trusted to publish on pages with their names and pictures, along with certain folks in the newsroom. Those people on-air with their names and pictures online will probably be the best at making sure what’s reported there is accurate and presented properly.

Who else would care as much?

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Killing kids and desecrating the name of Marjory Stoneman Douglas

I didn’t plan on writing two blogs in two days completely from scratch, but the news calls for it.

Yesterday, around this time, I was cramming on another blog and then dragged out even though I couldn’t care less about St. Valentine’s Day. Despite personal protests as long as I can remember, it’s not my holiday. That’s why I didn’t find out about the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland until today.

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Wikipedia file

In case you’re just learning about it, click here for the latest article on this blog at the moment, since you can always come here for the latest news – on the side on your desktop, or on the bottom on your tablet or phone.

Notice I wrote Parkland, rather than adding Florida, because I grew up down there, and have family and friends nearby, so I consider the deadly mayhem a local news story on several levels.

Parkland’s website calls it “a tranquil city nestled in a serene, wooded environment in Northwest (sic) Broward County, Florida,” which means in the outskirts rather than an urban environment — too close to Douglas’ beloved Everglades National Park, if you ask me.

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Parkland sits at the very edge of the Everglades. Think about what was there before Parkland. (Google Maps)
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Everglades National Park (National Park Service)

I’m disgusted for all the same reasons you are. There’s no need to explain the obvious.

This is also a disgrace to Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ name. She was known most throughout her long life as an environmentalist — which by “nature” has to do with life — first getting involved in the Everglades way back in the 1920s. She promoted responsible urban planning when Miami saw a population boom of 100,000 people in the decade.

MSD friends of the everglades
Friends of the Everglades

Then, according to Wikipedia,

“By the 1960s, the Everglades were in imminent danger of disappearing forever because of gross mismanagement in the name of progress and real estate and agricultural development. Encouraged to get involved by the leaders of environmental groups, in 1969—at the age of 79—Douglas founded Friends of the Everglades to protest the construction of a jetport in the Big Cypress portion of the Everglades. She justified her involvement saying, ‘It is a woman’s business to be interested in the environment. It’s an extended form of housekeeping.'”

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Photos via Wikipedia

Douglas had been honored by practically every environmental group for defending the Everglades against efforts to drain it and reclaim land for development. She convinced people it’s a treasured river instead of a worthless swamp.

Unfortunately for so many people in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, suburban sprawl has taken its toll. This isn’t like areas around other cities because it’s obvious from maps, including those in this article, you can’t build east. There’s the Atlantic Ocean. You also can’t build too far south. There’s Biscayne Bay and the Florida Straits, if you don’t hit the Everglades first.

But builders and sugar farmers try to make their livings further and further west. They keep fighting to move Miami-Dade’s Urban Development Boundary back, and commissioners keep approving, affecting the Everglades and its rural and natural resource protection areas.

Douglas wasn’t just about the environment. She also supported the ACLU, Equal Rights Amendment and mental health support, due to her mother’s deterioration.

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She served as a as a society columnist — writing about tea parties and society events, starting in 1915 — since her father, Frank Stoneman, was the first publisher of the paper that became The Miami Herald. From 1920 to 1990, Douglas published 109 fiction articles and stories.

Douglas was best known for her 1947 call to arms, The Everglades: River of Grass, which she began simply, ”There are no other Everglades in the world.”

According to The New York Times, her now-famous phrase

“‘river of grass’ caught the public imagination but it was also a reference to the fact that the Everglades is really a vast, slow-moving stream of shallow water and saw grass that covers much of the final 100 miles of South Florida.”

Of the people of South Florida, The Times reported she said,

“They could not get it through their heads that they had produced some of the worst conditions themselves, by their lack of cooperation, their selfishness, their mutual distrust and their willful refusal to consider the truth of the whole situation.”

She added that unless people acted more responsibly, ”overdrainage will go on” and ”the soil will shrink and burn and be wasted and destroyed, in a continuing ruin.”

Douglas died at the age of 108 on May 14, 1998. 

The next week, The Times reported,

“Once an area of more than 4,000 square miles, the Everglades has shrunk to less than half its original size, the result of overdrainage, urban sprawl and pollution from government-supported sugar cane and dairy farming. Many think its long-range future is still tenuous.”

(The article has much more on government attempts to buy land, how the sugar farmers blamed the government for the Everglades’ problems, sugar farmers convincing Florida voters to reject a penny-a-pound tax on sugar, other attempts to restore the Everglades’ natural water flow — and much more on Douglas’ life, short marriage and accomplishments. Click here for even more, from longtime Miami Herald managing editor Rick Hirsch, published two years ago tomorrow.)

Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles explained her impact, saying,

“Marjory was the first voice to really wake a lot of us up to what we were doing to our quality of life. She was not just a pioneer of the environmental movement, she was a prophet, calling out to us to save the environment for our children and our grandchildren.”

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Marjory Stoneman Douglas Building in Tallahassee, headquarters of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (Wikimedia Commons)
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Presidential Medal of Freedom

In 1993, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Chicago Tribune wrote she “was thrilled when President Clinton called and invited her to the White House” for the nation’s highest civilian honor.

On April 22, 2015, while giving an Earth Day speech in the Everglades, President Obama announced that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell had designated her house in the Coconut Grove section of Miami — built in 1924, and where she wrote all of her major books and stories — a National Historic Landmark.

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It’s now owned by the state of Florida and a park ranger lives there to maintain it from the disrepair it had suffered from as early as the 1926 Miami Hurricane and also an infestation of bees.

One tidbit from PBS: Marjory Stoneman Douglas didn’t like to go out in the buggy Everglades!

It’s hard for me to believe the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Elementary School in Miami-Dade County weren’t even born when she was alive. Both schools opened in 1990. Douglas was still alive. I wonder what she thought about the schools’ openings and more specifically, their locations.

I look at the maps and consider both locations suburban sprawl, since the schools had to be built as late as 1990, and that meant families moving into places nobody hadn’t been living before.

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high school website (west of Miami)

elementary website (Parkland, Broward Co.)

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One would think Douglas would’ve been against that. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find details on Douglas’ reaction to schools bearing her name being built in such places. I’d really like to know.

However, The New York Times wrote, “In 1990, on her 100th birthday, when she was blind and frail, she continued to speak out against those who plundered the Everglades.”

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Honored at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, which she fought for in the 1930s and called “one of the greatest achievements for the entire area.”

But look at where we’re talking about: a place that’ll probably be underwater sooner rather than later, due to global warming, at the rate we’re going.

In 2003, the Miami Herald reported,

“In 1990, the (Miami-Dade County School) board hired Roma Construction to build Marjory Stoneman Douglas Elementary. The project was 390 days late, and Roma forfeited $45,000 for pulling out before the work was complete. Just four years later, the board rehired the company to build Paul Bell Middle”…

School, but that was also a disaster.

This evening, the same paper reported,

“Two South Florida Republicans, Senator Marco Rubio, who received millions of dollars in political help from the National Rifle Association, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, the single largest recipient of direct NRA campaign cash among Floridians in the House of Representatives since 1998, said gun control legislation won’t stop mass shootings.”

R.I.P. to Marjory Stoneman Douglas and also yesterday’s victims. Unfortunately, I don’t see progress in solving South Florida’s, or the country’s, problems.

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