FCC taking public complaints about sale of WMFE TV




Just a couple of days ago, we’d started hearing rumblings that the FCC could throw a wrench in the works that'd slow down the sale of local PBS affiliate WMFE TV (Channel 24) to Community Educators of Orlando, an entity owned by Dallas-based evangelical religious broadcasting company Daystar Television Network.

Members of the community, we’d heard, were planning to take their complaints about the deal – which some think was rushed through, with no input from the public; that sentiment was voiced by former WMFE chief Steven Steck in a story about the sale by media blog the Current – to the FCC in hope of slowing what seems to be an attempt to fast-track the sale of the station.

Sure enough, today we stumbled across a story on radio and industry news site All Access Media indicating that the FCC docketed the sale on April 28, which means it will take public complaints, concerns and requests to deny WMFE’s petition to sell the station "in order to foster greater openness, transparency and public participation" in the sale process. Anyone interested in filing a complaint can do so online by visiting the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System and should refer to MB Docket No. 11-75 and File No. BALEDT-20110401ACW in their complaint.

Petitions to deny will be taken by the FCC until May 6.

“The application for assignment of license of WMFE-TV has bee accepted for filing upon initial review,” the FCC says in its announcement that the sale has been put on the docket. “The commission reserves the right to return any application if, upon further examination, it is determined to be defective and not in conformance with the commissions rules, regulations or policies.”

We did a little directed reading at the FCC’s website and found this tidbit about the agency's rules for putting TV and radio stations up for sale:

“When someone files an application to build a new station or to renew, sell, or modify an existing station, we generally require the applicant to make a series of local announcements to inform the public of the application's existence and nature. These announcements are either published in a local newspaper or made over the air on the station, and are intended to give the public an opportunity to comment on the application. A statement certifying compliance with this requirement, including the dates and times that notice was given, must be placed in the public file.  The only exception to this public notice requirement is when the proposed station sale is “pro forma” and will not result in a change of ultimate control, or the modification application does not contemplate a “major change” of the station facilities.”

Those public announcements were made when WMFE President and CEO Jose Fajardo went on air on WMFE’s public-radio station, WMFE 90.7 FM, and discussed the details of the sale with Intersection host Mark Simpson on April 5 – by then, of course, the $3 million deal had already been struck, though, so ... if you take issue with that and don’t feel like the station was transparent enough with its plans – and from what we've heard, many of you don't – now’s your chance to file your grievance with the FCC.

And by the way, in case you missed it: If you donated to WMFE TV during its spring pledge drive, and you’re not happy with how this deal went down, you can get your donation back. According to a blog post

by the Sentinel’s The TV Guy, Hal Boedeker, all you have to do is mail your refund request to the station at WMFE, 11510 East Colonial Drive, Orlando, Florida 32817 or call during normal business hours, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday at 407-273-2300, ext 175.

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