Media Bureau clears way for Meridian construction permit

The FCC Media Bureau Jan. 7 denied an application for review of a construction permit to build a new TV station on Channel 20 in Idaho Falls, ID, in a Memorandum Opinion and Order.

The application, filed by NPG of Idaho in August 2005, sought review of an FCC staff denial of a petition for reconsideration of an application from Meridian Communications for a construction permit for the new station.

The issue was first raised in 1995 by commission staff in a letter approving assignment of KPVI-TV in Pocatello, ID; KKVI-TV, Twin Falls, ID; and KJVI-TV in Jackson, WY, from Ambassador Media to Sunbelt Broadcasting Company. At that time, The Post Company and Retlaw Enterprises opposed the assignment application because the majority shareholder in Sunbelt, James Rogers, also was “the real-party-in-interest” in the Meridian application to build Channel 20 in Idaho Falls. The two principals in Meridian were Suzanne and Perry Rogers, the children of James. If James Rogers was the real-party-in-interest in the application, he would have controlled two television stations in the same market in violation of local TV ownership rules.

The 1995 letter from the staff found that “limited familial and business relationships between Mr. Rogers and the Meridian principals do not raise a [substantial and material] question as to whether Mr. Rogers is the real-party-in-interest to the Meridian application,” the MO&O said. The staff found the links between the two companies “did not establish significant similarity between the two entities” nor establish “a pattern of interdependence” that would show the presence of common control, the MO&O said. In July 2003, FCC staff denied a petition to deny in the matter filed by Post in response to the 1995 letter.

In the latest application for review, NPG asserted the staff’s decision violated commission local TV ownership rule and will harm competition in the market. According to NPG, the decision in effect rants the Rogers family control of three TV stations in the market.

In denying the NPG application for review, the FCC said NPG “failed to show any adverse consequence to competition and diversity” in granting the application. The commission also said NPG did not raise “a substantial and material question” regarding whether Sunbelt or James Rogers is the real-party-in-interest in the Meridian application.