Infinity's KFWB Back In Limbo With FCC's Switch on Trust Status
By DARRELL SATZMAN
Infinity Broadcasting Inc. radio station KFWB-AM (980) remains in regulatory limbo after the Federal Communications Commission rescinded its approval of the company's application to put the station into a trust only a week after it gave its okay.
Filed in November, the trust application seeks to transfer management but not ownership of the news station to an independent trustee. The move has been viewed as an effort by Infinity parent Viacom Inc. to retain all seven of its local radio stations one more than current rules allow while the FCC weighs reforms that could further loosen ownership limits in individual markets.
Viacom, which also owns CBS (including KCBS-TV, Channel 2), went over the combined radio-television limit in Los Angeles last year when it acquired KCAL-TV (Channel 9) from Young Broadcasting for $650 million.
The FCC approved Infinity's application Dec. 30, only to pull back its approval on Jan. 9. "We wanted to more fully consider the terms of the trust," said one FCC official. "It was determined that additional review is necessary."
Infinity spokesman Dana McClintock said the company would continue pursuing the trust arrangement.
Bill Clark, a former president of Shamrock Broadcasting who has been tabbed by Infinity to head the proposed KFWB trust, said the application may be attracting scrutiny because it is different than other trust requests.
In the past, such applications usually involved acquisitions of groups of radio stations that were purchased across several markets and some of which had to be divested. In KFWB's case, the company applied for a trust because it was in violation of the combined television and radio ownership rules and did not want to sell.
"Most were set up so they wouldn't hold up major deals," Clark said. "They were short-term things where (owners) either sold stations or traded them for stations in other markets."
Meanwhile, KFWB General Manager Roger Nadel said the station is operating as usual and that "tens of thousands of dollars" in new equipment are being invested in preparation to begin airing Dodgers games this spring.
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