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In re Application of: SOUTHERN BROADCASTING CO. (WGHP-TV), HIGH POINT, N.C. For a Modification of License

File No. BMLCT-664


14 F.C.C.2d 770 (1968); 14 Rad. Reg. 2d (P & F) 303


September 5, 1968 Adopted


[*770]  1.  The Commission has before it for consideration a petition to reconsider, filed January 26, 1968, by the city of High Point, a municipal corporation of the State of North Carolina, the High Point Merchants Association, Inc., and the High Point Chamber of Commerce, requesting reconsideration of the action of the Chief, Broadcast Bureau, granting the application (BMLCT-664) of Southern Broadcasting Co. (Southern), licensee of television broadcast station WGHP-TV, channel 8, High Point, N.C., for authority to move its studios from downtown High Point to a site 6.6 miles outside the city limits; and an opposition to the petition to reconsider, filed March 5, 1968, by Southern.

2.  Section 405 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, requires that a petition for rehearing "must be filed within 30 days from the date upon which public notice is given of the order, decision, report or action complained of." In this case, the public notice was published on December 1, 1967.  Accordingly, the present petition, which was filed January 26, 1968, was not seasonably filed, and must be dismissed.  However, in view of the importance of the questions raised to the residents of High Point, we shall discuss the merits.

3.  The cites of Greensboro, High Point, and Winston-Salem form a triangle, the distance between their city limits being no greater than approximately 18 miles. n1 The petitioners allege that station WGHP receives a majority of its local advertising from, and its programming and local news coverage are primarily concerned with, High Point, and that station WFMY-TV, channel 2, and station WSJS-TV, channel 12, in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, respectively, show a similar emphasis toward their principal communities.  The petitioners further allege that the citizens of High Point will be adversely affected by the studio move; that the move will cause an inequitable distribution of television service in the area; that the move will result in station  [*771]  WGHP-TV losing its identification with High Point and thereby deprive the city of a local television outlet; that Southern has a suitable 1.75-acre site available in High Point; that the proposed site is more easily accessible to Greensboro and Winston-Salem than it is to High Point; and that Southern does not own or have a recorded option to purchase the land it intends to use for the new studio site, implying that the proposed site is not available to Southern.

n1 The approximate distances between their respective city limits are: Greensboro to High Point, 8 miles; High Point to Winston-Salem, 12 Miles; Winston-Salem to Greensboro, 18 miles.

4.  Southern alleges that its present studio facilities are inadequate due to lack of space and parking facilities; that the 1.75-acre site suggested by the petitioners is not suitable because it offers only limited space; that the proposed site does provide adequate space for a suitable studio; that residents of High Point have ready access to the new site, which is only a 17-minute drive from the downtown area; that the new site is available to Southern; and that the move will in no way alter station WGHP-TV's local programming.

5.  The question presented is whether a sufficient showing has been made to warrant setting aside our action authorizing the new studio site.  It should be noted that this is not a move of the station's transmitter and no change in the coverage contours will occur.  Although the petitioners conclude that the proposed studio site will cause an inequitable distribution of television service in the area and will adversely affect High Point residents, no facts are alleged to support these conclusions.  In regard to the petitioners' allegation that the new site is not available to Southern, a copy of the contract has been submitted that demonstrates that the land is, in fact, available.  As to Southern's choice of sites, our consideration must be whether the proposed site would serve the public interest.  It is not controverted that the present studio facilities are inadequate, and that the new facilities will provide station WGHP-TV with a modern facility with ample studio, storage, and parking space.  The new site is readily accessible to High Point residents, since it is located 6.6 miles from the city limits on a two-lane highway.  The petitioners have not contested Southern's statement that the new studio is only a 17-minute drive from downtown High Point.  Accessibility does not require, as petitioners appear to suggest, that the studio must be connected to High Point by a four-lane expressway.

6.  The basic concern of the petitioners appears to be that station WGHP-TV will lose its identity with High Point.  Southern has stated in its application and in its pleadings that the change of studio locations will not result in any loss of identity with its principal community.  For example, Southern states in its opposition:

From its new studios WGHP-TV will continue to function as an outlet for local expression for its principal city of High Point.  It will continue to give the same emphasis in its programming activities to High Point events, governmental activities, civic affairs, and news.  The proposed move -- which is designed to be for the benefit of the residents of the High Point area -- is not intended to change WGHP-TV's responsibilities to its principal community of High Point, Since its inception WGHP-TV has endeavored to reflect the tastes and needs of the people of High Point, and it will continue to do so.

The petitioners have alleged no facts which would lead us to conclude that Southern will not live up to its representations to the Commission.

[*772]  Accordingly, It is ordered, That the petition to reconsider filed by the city of High Point, the High Point Chamber of Commerce and the High Point Merchants Association, Inc., Is dismissed.


Local Studios (In reapplication of Southern Broadcasting Co. -- Modification of License)


High Point, N.C., is a community of about 70,000 souls located as a corner of a triangle approximately 8 miles from Greensboro and 12 miles from Winston-Salem.

High Point receives television service from WFMY-TV, channel 2, Greensboro, and WSJS-TV, channel 12, Winston-Salem.  But its only locally oriented television station is WGHP-TV, channel 8.

Now WGHP, to suit its own convenience, wants to leave town.  It wants to move its only studio 6.6 miles outside the city limits -- toward a point approximately equally distant from all three cities.  The Chief of the Broadcast Bureau has approved the studio move under delegated authority.  The Commission has been asked by local citizens to reconsider that action.

The move is opposed by the city of High Point, the High Point Chamber of Commerce, and the High Point Merchants Association, Inc. The FCC, nevertheless, supports the broadcaster-applicant.

The fear of the people of High Point is that channel 8, a High Point station now, will increasingly seek to become identified with the entire urban area, to the detriment of local service to High Point.  The station assures us that its service to High Point will improve and that the new studio will be easily accessible to High Point.

But there are several elements in this case which lead me to dissent.  First, the proposed studio site is not only well outside High Point but is also roughly equidistant from Greensboro and Winston-Salem.  WGHP-TV could not have chosen a studio site better designed to maximize appeal to these two cities and to minimize its orientation to High Point.  Second, this station in 1966 sought, successfully, to have the Commission waive its rules and allow it to identify as a "High Point, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, N.C.," station, ostensibly to improve its competitive position. Third, there is little to indicate that this Commission will enforce any devotion by WGHP-TV to local service beyond what it finds financially rewarding.  The Commission's record in requiring meaningful local service is beyond reciting.

Finally, I believe we should accord stronger weight to the expressed views of local citizens attempting to deal with local problems.  How often one hears the argument that a seemingly unmeritorious request by a broadcaster should be approved by this Commission because no  [*773] one in the local community has voiced objection.  Here the Commission frustrates local groups that have voiced objection, without so much as the courtesy of a hearing, in its haste to accede to the business wishes of a licensee.  Nor do I support the Commission's use of procedural barriers in this case.  The FCC is not so terribly burdened by participation of the general public in its proceedings that it cannot afford to stop and listen to the citizens of High Point who are concerned about their local television station.

I would vote to reconsider our grant in this case and set the application to move the studio for hearing in High Point.

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