Four citizens groups have asked the Federal Communications Commission to stay its approval for the sale by Washington Star Communications Inc. os WJLA-TV here, pending the filing of a lawsuit in federal court which will seek to overturn the regulatory agency's action.
A notice of lawsuit, filed in the U. S. Court of Appeals here, and the petition to the FCC were filed late Tuesday - less than a month before the proposed WJLA sale agreement expires.
Lawyers for the D. C. Media Task Force, Adams Morgan Organization, D. C. Chapter of the National Organization for Women and National Black Media Coalition filed the FCC petition and court notice. They now have 40 days in which to file initial court briefs.
The same organization earlier had intervened in the proposed television sale case before the FCC, claiming that the station swap added to ownership concentration in a major market, in violation of general FCC policy, and violated an agreement by the current WJLA owners to seek minority buyers for the broadcast property.
On Jan. 12, the FCC approved the station sale in a 5-2 vote. Under the agreement approved, Washington Star Communications will transfer WJLA to Combined Communications Corp., of Phoenix, in exchange for Combined's KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City and $55 million of non-voting non-convertible preferred stock in Combined.
Washington Star Chairman Joe L. Allbritton was ordered by the FCC to sell WJLA, Channel 7, as a condition of his purchase of the Washington firm in 1975. Allbritton has said dividends from the Combined stock plus profits of KOCO would provide the cash flow necessary to keep alive the Washington Star.
FCC spokesmen said the agency had not had time to consider the petition as of last night. A lawyer for the citizens groups, Nolan A. Bowie, said he would consider seeking a stay of the station transaction in court if the FCC turns down the groups' appeal.
Washington Star chairman Allbritton's office referred a reporter's calls on the petition to a lawyer, Henry Goldberg, who declined to commet "since his is before the court and the commission." Asked if an extension would be sought to the Washington Star-Combined Communications agreement, which expires Feb. 28, Goldberg said: "I can't go into that."
In Phoen'x, Combined Communications vice president and general counsel Lawrence R. Wilson said a possible extension "has not been discussed."
Wilson said he had anticipated that the Washington groups would go to court and seek to overturn the FCC action but he emphasized that Combined "still plans (and) hopes to consummate" the purchase of WJLA-TV.
"We will have to watch this as it develops . . . but I guess the suit will be staring us in the face on the 28th," said Wilson, who declined to comment on specific allegations by the four groups until his firm has studied the petitions.