FCC questions transfer of KFVE broadcast license and investigates Raycom Media’s role

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is raising detailed questions about the financing, structure and relationship involving Raycom Media of Alabama and other entities involved in the transfer of the ownership and broadcast license of Honolulu station KFVE TV .

The FCC Media Bureau’s actions are in response to Media Council Hawaii’s (MCH) objections to a proposed sale and transfer of the KFVE broadcast license (made November 2013) to a company known as American Spirit. MCH objected, saying that the deal was a sham, that American Spirit is a shell company wholly controlled by Raycom. There are 7 American Spirit stations; all of them run by Raycom. MCH believes that this transfer and sale of the license is a thinly disguised effort by Raycom to further its control of three television stations—KGMB, KHNL, and KFVE—through a so-called Shared Services Agreement (SSA).

In 2009, Raycom engineered a deal in which it effectively took control of Honolulu stations KGMB, KHNL, and KFVE. Using the SSA, assets and call letters were swapped in a way that gives Raycom outright ownership of KGMB (CBS)and KHNL(NBC)—two of the top four stations in Honolulu—and de facto ownership and control of KFVE. When the deal was first announced, Raycom CEO Paul McTear stated that this was not a sale and “at the end of the day no money is changing hands.”

Raycom claims that station KFVE is a separate and independent entity, operated by HITV Inc., even though the company has only 2 employees, and no: studio, equipment, transmitter, or means of independent operation.

Documents made public pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that Raycom executed a note, promising to pay HITV 22 million dollars plus quarterly interest payments of $275,000, plus annual principal payments. Also signed was an option agreement permitting the sale of KFVE to another company variously identified as Otumwa Media Holdings, American Spirit Media, and Southeastern Media Holdings.

Is American Spirit a real broadcasting company in that it can run a broadcast station independent of Raycom Media? What are the financial details involved in the transaction? The Media Bureau’s letter investigates these and other questions about the license transfer.

MCH filed a complaint with the FCC aimed at stopping the original merger on the grounds that it violated FCC ownership limits prohibiting one entity from owning two stations in the top 4 (KGMB –CBS and KHNL-NBC) and ownership/control of three stations. The FCC’s Media Bureau ruled in November 2011, that the merged operation violated public policy aimed at promoting diversity, competition and localism, but since the transaction did not involve application for a broadcast license, the FCC had no basis for action.

The Media Bureau said that it would include the question of SSAs in their Quadrennial Review and that MCH might properly raise this question when the station licenses were up for, renewal (2015). MCH filed an appeal of this decision that is pending before the full Commission.

With their letter of September 9, the FCC is finally asking the right questions, says MCH president, Chris Conybeare.

We are pleased that the FCC is trying to follow the money, blow away the smoke and look behind the mirrors of these sham transactions. This fight for media diversity is far from over. We look forward to the mandatory license renewal, process and will be filing objections to the continued misuse of the public airwaves by Raycom media.

MCH will be posting detailed information about these issues on its blog (www.mediacouncil.org) , including information about its objection to broadcast license renewals by Raycom and its shell companies.

Media, Money & Democracy: Political Campaign Advertising and Hawaii Television News in the 2012 Elections

In March, Media Council Hawaii and Common Cause Hawaii released their study, “Media, Money & Democracy: Political Campaign Advertising and Hawaii Television News in the 2012 Elections.” The study shows that Hawaii voters saw more ads than information when watching televised news broadcasts just prior to the primary and general elections in 2012. Not surprisingly–the news media does not like to talk about how its business intersects with news coverage–the study got little attention in mainstream print and television news. But, we’re in the middle of another election cycle, and it seems the study is as relevant as ever. So, if you’re interested you can find the study here along with a companion news release from Chris Conybeare, president of Media Council Hawaii, about the study.

Media Money release 3.29.14

Media and Money Project report 3.20.14Media and Money Project report 3.20.14

Public’s Right to Open Court Proceedings

Here’s a link to the Hawaii Supreme Court’s ruling in Oahu Publications v. Ahn. It’s an important case that everyone, including reporters who cover the courts, should read for what it says about Hawaii’s tradition of open proceedings and why actions by Ahn in the past and Ahn’s decision to conduct a closed chamber conference to conduct a retrial for Christopher Deedy is of concern (see our earlier post, The Sleeping Watchdogs).

U Win Tin: Courage and Inspiration

7A47A47A4by Chris Conybeare, President, MCH


On April 21, 2014, Burma journalist and democracy advocate, U Win Tin died at age 85. He was arrested in 1989, imprisoned and subjected to torture for speaking out against the military regime and in support of human rights. He was finally released in 2008, having become a worldwide symbol of courage.

U win Tin was the chief editor of the Hanthawathi news paper and among the leading members of the National League for Democracy (The NLD is the Party of Aung San Suu Kyi.). The military rulers continually added to his sentence. So that an initial 3 year sentence was eventually extended to 20 years!

Despite declining health and enduring some of the world’s worst prison conditions, U Win Tin continued to write, using ink made from brick dust, he wrote poetry, and commentary. He wrote a report documenting prison conditions that was smuggled to the outside world and was incorporated in the report of the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma.

U Win Tin was awarded the prestigious Golden Pen Award in 2001 and has received numerous other accolades for his journalism and leadership in the struggle for democracy. Media Council Hawaii made him an honorary member of its Board of Directors in 2007.

He was offered release from prison if he would sign a pledge to withdraw from the NLD and cease activities as a journalist. An offer he steadfastly refused. Even when it was apparent that he and other political prisoners would be freed, it is reported that he protested being released without concurrent dropping of all charges against him.

He was finally released from jail in 2008,and in 2009, Media Council Hawaii was proud to have him speak at its Sunshine Week, Media Justice Conference, via SKYPE. When asked; “What are the most important qualities for a young aspiring journalist?” he replied, “A journalist should be part of the community and tell the truth!”

I met with U Win Tin in Yangon in 2010 and asked him about the changes taking place, and the regimes promise to transition to democracy. He answered, “They say there is light in the tunnel, but we do not know the source. What we really need to do is break out of the tunnel!”

His wisdom and courage should inspire all of us to a renewed commitment to ideals of freedom of communication and democracy. Our actions will be the best, most fitting and lasting tribute to this courageous journalist.

The Sleeping Watchdogs

Few reporters seemed to think it was important enough to even mention, and the Associated Press mentions it only in passing in the third graf of its story below, but Judge Karen Ahn conducted a hearing on a third trial for Christopher Deedy “in her chambers.” That means it was a hearing to which the press and public were shut out, a closed proceeding.

You may recall that on July 17, 2014, the headline in Civil Beat was that the Hawaii Supreme Court “rebukes” Deedy judge over closed proceedings. But it doesn’t seem as if any reporter felt compelled to complain about the closed proceeding involving the third trial, much less deem it worthy of mentioning in their stories…except in passing. or perhaps calling the judge on snubbing her nose at the Hawaii Supreme Court. Is this what happens when the watchdog media falls asleep?

Judge sets a date for U.S. agent’s possible third trial

August 30, 2014

The Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) – A judge is tentatively scheduling a possible third trial for a federal agent recently found not guilty of murder in the shooting death of a man in a Waikiki fast-food restaurant.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Janice Futa said after the jury acquitted Christopher Deedy of murder that she’ll recommend another trial for manslaughter and assault. The jury wasn’t able to agree on those lesser charges. The first jury a year ago deadlocked and a mistrial was declared.

Judge Karen Ahn met with attorneys Friday in her chambers. According to court minutes, Ahn scheduled trial for the week of Sept. 8 if the defense doesn’t prevail in motions to stop another trial. Defense attorney Thomas Otake says he plans to file motions to dispose of the charges and avoid another trial.