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Broadcast license dispute reopened

January 7, 1981

The Spokesman-Review

A six-year dispute over renewal of the licenses of KHQ television and radio stations has been reopened, J. Birney Blair, president and general manager said Tuesday.

“We’ve been advised by our Washington, D.C. attorneys that Terrence Fancher has filed a petition to deny renewal of the licenses for KHQ-AM/FM/TV with the FCC,” Blair said.

The stations’ 1972 licenses from the Federal Communications Commission to broadcast over public airways were to expire in January 1975. License renewal has been delayed by a 1975 complaint by the U.S. Justice Department that was dropped in 1978 after an investigation, and by an earlier informal complaint by Fancher. The stations have been operating under extensions from the Federal Communications Commission pending a final decision on the renewal, Blair explained.

Fancher, now a student at Harvard University Law School and a 1971 graduate of Ferris High School, said his complaint is based on the cross ownership of KHQ and Spokane’s two daily newspapers by the Cowles Publishing Co.

Blair said that the FCC policy against cross ownership has been interpreted to apply only in markets with only one television station.

The FCC broke up seven newspaper-television combinations in 1977. Others, including the Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV or the New York Daily News and WPIX-TV have been allowed.

Wilhelmina Cooke, an attorney with the Citizens Communication Center in Washington, D.C., filed Fancher’s petition to the FCC.

Summarizing his latest objections, Fancher referred to “economic monopolization” of news and advertising in Spokane, and “several specific abuses by the Cowles-KHQ media firms,” including “excessive” use of pictures in The Spokesman-Review promoting KHQ television programs.

“Renewal of the KHQ broadcast licenses under Cowles control would not serve the public interest. Instead, the licenses should be opened up for some new party with no ties to Spokane broadcasting or newspapers to bring a new viewpoint, a new diversity, a new source of competition for news and advertising into the Spokane market,” Fancher said.

Blair said he could not comment on Fancher’s complaints because he has not seen a copy yet. Publisher William H. Cowles 3d said he will continue to avoid comment on the case as long as it is before a government administrative body, the FCC.

Fancher said he became interested in KHQ’s ownership when he chose it as the topic for his senior thesis towards a business degree at Harvard.

Wednesday, January 7, 1981

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From → KHQ

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