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FCC to Allot 13 Disputed Radio and TV Licenses

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Times Staff Writer

A comprehensive settlement to resolve long-standing challenges against 13 radio and television station licenses held by RKO General clearly cannot be achieved, an FCC official concluded Tuesday.

James C. McKinney, who heads the FCC’s mass media bureau, said that as a result of the failure to settle the disputes, he will recommend that the commission move promptly to decide which applicants should receive the licenses.

The RKO licenses for the stations, including KHJ-AM and KRTH-FM in Los Angeles and WFRC-AM in San Francisco, have been challenged by a number of groups nationwide contending that they could better serve the stations’ audiences than RKO has.

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McKinney was designated by the commission last fall to act as a mediator.

However, McKinney said, by the end of January, only one of the challenges had been settled. In that arrangement, RKO, a subsidiary of Akron-based GenCorp, agreed to sell Memphis AM radio station WHBQ to a local investor.

The broadcast properties involved in the negotiations include six AM radio stations, six FM stations and a television station in Memphis.

Los Angeles’ KHJ-TV Channel 9 was not included in the mediation because Westinghouse Electric had agreed in late 1985 to buy the station for $313 million. Last week, however, that deal fell apart when Westinghouse backed out, citing delays caused by the licensing challenges.

In his report, McKinney said that he would assess no blame for the failed negotiations, which were coordinated through an experimental FCC mediation process. He said the fact that some of the challenging groups were unbending “could simply mean they were right, not that they were recalcitrant.”

However, he sharply criticized the current comparative renewal process that allows newcomers to challenge a broadcast license each time a station’s license comes up for renewal.

“It is difficult to imagine a more harmful contrivance of government than one which would submerge more than a dozen broadcasting voices in nine major cities of the United States in a situation of perpetual limbo for years on end with no clear vision of the future,” he said.

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