FCC approves GCI acquisition of Southeast stations

The Federal Communications Commission issued orders May 15 approving GCI subsidiary Denali Media Juneau’s request to acquire three Southeast Alaska television stations.

Denali Media Juneau asked for approval of three licenses — one each in Sitka, Juneau and Ketchikan — that were previously held by Ketchikan TV LLC, which is based in Colorado. All are CBS affiliates.

According to GCI spokesman David Morris, the sale is expected to close in a couple of weeks.

Denali announced plans to buy those stations in December 2013. According to the agreement filed with the FCC, GCI will pay $1 million for those stations.

The purchase of the Juneau station was filed separately, and was also granted. No objections were filed in the Juneau license transfer application.

Ketchikan’s other television station, Ketchikan Public Utilities, had petitioned the FCC to deny the Ketchikan license transfer or attach certain conditions on it. The FCC denied that petition in the same May 15 order. KPU is owned by the City of Ketchikan, and provides cable service to area residents.

Ketchikan had expressed concerns that the sale would harm the residents of Ketchikan by providing decreased competition and potentially increasing prices.

In January, Denali told the commission that it would upgrade broadcast facilities if it received the license. The company also said the purchase would expand news coverage, citing that as an example of how the transaction would be for the benefit of the public.

In a May 23 email, Morris said that no immediate changes will occur. First, GCI will have to change out some equipment. Then the Southeast stations will receive the newsfeed from Anchorage-based KTVA, which GCI purchased and launched a new newscast in December 2013.

The news will also be delivered via fiber, rather than the current satellite/fiber configuration that comes in from Colorado.

Morris wrote that the change also provides more opportunities for advertisers to directly reach Southeast Alaska audiences.

In its order, the commission wrote: “We will continue to closely scrutinize transactions that create economic incentives that are inconsistent with the Act and our policies that favor competition, diversity and localism.”

This is the second set of transactions expanding Denali’s presence in Southeast Alaska.

Denali received permission to purchase two other Southeast stations previously, the NBC affiliates in Juneau and Sitka. Programming from those stations is also seen in Angoon, Petersburg and Wrangell.

— Molly Dischner

05/28/2014 - 10:12am