By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
3:03 PM EDT, August 6, 2013
Allow me to cut through the bureaucracy and spin of a local TV turf tiff.
WBFF, Baltimore's Fox affiliate, wants the signal from WTTG, Washington's Fox-owned station, out of Anne Arundel, Howard and Harford counties. It petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for that action July 3.
But Laura Neuman, Anne Arundel county executive, wants WTTG's signal to stay -- at least, in her county.
Neuman Tuesday requested the FCC to deny WBFF's petition to bounce WTTG.
At some point, the FCC will rule on whether WTTG stays or goes. But having studied the FCC for three decades, I can tell you it probably won't be soon.
Big deal? Big intrigue?
WBFF is arguing that the Washington station is no longer "significantly viewed" in those counties. The term "significantly viewed" is FCC language from 1972 that allows a station to broadcast outside its DMA (Designated Market Area). DMA has been a complicated issue for decades in markets that overlap the way Baltimore and Washington do.
Of course, WBFF and Sinclair want WTTG out. With the Fox-owned station's signal no longer available, viewers in those counties would have to watch WBFF to see Fox shows. That would help ratings and sales.
And, of course, Neuman wants residents of her county to have more viewing choices.
"For nearly four decades, Anne Arundel County residents have had the benefit of both broadcast outlets," she said in a statement.
Will WTTG be forced out of the Maryland counties by the FCC?
I predict nothing in the crazed world of today's every-changing media landscape.
But proving the station's are not "significantly viewed" is a pretty high bar, and the data in the petition I saw didn't convince me. I would be surprised if it convinces the FCC either.
But, perhaps, WBFF has made other data available to the FCC that is not cited in the petition.
For the record, the WBFF petition was filed July 3 by Chesapeake Television Licensee, LLC, the entity that holds the Sinclair-owned station's license to broadcast.
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