"A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves." - Edward R. Murrow
At one point in time, Medial General in Tampa owned The (now defunct) Tampa Tribune, WFLA (AM), WFLA-FM and WFLA-TV. MG would eventually divest its radio products in the market to another company, retaining the newspaper and the TV station.
From what I have always been told by people who were at the time, is that the new owners of the radio stations had the "rights" to the call letters, and they (and subsequent owners all the way to iHeartMedia) allow Media General to use them for WFLA-TV. For what price I don't know. I've heard rumors ranging from a cash deal to simply providing the radio stations with weather forecasts voiced by the TV's meteorologists.
(As an aside, the FM station would have its calls changed to WFLZ. Clear Channel would eventually place the WFLA-FM calls on a station in Tallahassee, and use the "WFLA" brand on stations in Florida whose calls were "WFLF" and "WFLF-FM." Furthering my belief in this case that the owners of the original WFLA (AM) hold the rights to the calls.)
"Where an application is granted by the FCC for transfer or assignment of the construction permit or license of a station whose existing call sign conforms to that of a commonly-owned station not part of the transaction, the new licensee of the transferred or assigned station shall expeditiously request a different call sign, unless consent to retain the conforming call sign has been obtained from the primary holder and from the licensee of any other station that may be using such conforming call sign."
According to the rule, "the new licensee...shall request a different call sign."
Anyhow, I couldn't see Clear Channel (and now iHeart) 20+ years after the fact pay another company just to be able to use call letters out of market, as they do with aforementioned WFLA-FM in Tallahassee, and to even infringe upon the brand in places like Orlando and Panama City.
Last edited by hamster; 12-13-2016 at 10:52 PM.
I think we're getting confused between what was and what is. A couple of decades ago, the FCC would not permit different owners to hold the same call letters. As mentioned above, 710 WOR was sold to one company and Channel 9 was sold to another. The AM kept the call sign, but the TV station had to add the extra W, becoming WWOR-TV. WNEW-AM-FM and WNEW-TV were sold to separate companies. The radio stations kept the call sign and the TV station switched to WNYW-TV. That was then.
This is now. Different owners can have the same call sign. When Park communications sold its NYC-area stations, 930 WPAT was bought by one company (Multicultural Broadcasting) and 93.1 WPAT-FM was bought by another company (Spanish Broadcasting Service). I'd say these days, if both companies value the call letters, they keep them, despite whatever confusion may arise. In these cases, I don't think any additional money changes hands because Company A is selling its AM to Company B and its FM to Company C. Each price is negotiated separately.
Here's an interesting story from Hartford CT... Travelers Insurance sold off WTIC-AM-FM and Channel 3 WTIC-TV to different firms quite a few years ago. The radio stations kept the call sign and the TV outlet became WFSB. Some years later, the son of the radio stations' owner became the owner of a new TV station, Channel 61. He asked his dad for permission to use the WTIC call sign on his UHF outlet, and the dad agreed. The FCC then went along with it. The WTIC-TV call sign was back in the Hartford market, but on Channel 61, not 3. The radio stations were later bought by CBS and the TV station, now a Fox affiliate, was bought by Tribune. So today CBS owns WTIC-AM-FM and Tribune Media owns WTIC-TV.
Does Tribune pay CBS for this right? I don't think so.
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