Three television stations under investigation by both the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission for alleged price fixing and other anticompetitive practices will face a consolidated hearing on the charges before the FCC.
According to a press release issued by the FCC yesterday, information received by the commission has "raised serious questions whether the applicants possessed the qualifications to remain licensees of their stations."
The extraordinary case came to light in November 1976 when a former sales manager for one of the stations, ABC affiliate KODE-TV, went to the FCC to discuss various practices of his former station, and the two other local network affiliates, KTVJ-TV (CBS) and KOAM-TV (NBC), which is located in nearby Pittsburg, Kansas.
Because the charges included possible antitrust violations, the Justice Departments also was alerted. A federal been hearing evidence of the allegations of price fixing and collusion that could lead to criminal charges.
Meanwhile, the three stations' license renewals have been held up for about a year by the FCC pending the outcome of its investigation.
According to yesterday's press release, the issues to be discussed [WORD ILLEGIBLE] still unscheduled hearing on the subject include:
Whether the licenses engaged in anticompetitive practices by continuing or conspiring to arrange their commercial advertising rates.
Whether these activities, if they did exist, resulted in the arrangement of commercial advertising rated by the three.
Whether the station and/or management officials misrepresented facts to the commission and/or were lacking in candor regarding the two previous issues.
Whether Gilmore Broadcasting Corp., Inc., owner of KODE-TV) violated Section 315 (b) of the Communications Act by charging political candidates higher rates in 1976 for comparable time than were then being charged to commercial advertisers.
Whether the companies had the qualifications to remain FCC licensees and whether granting the renewals would be in the public interest.
Officials of the three stations have confirmed to The Washington Post that they have been producing documents concerning their billings to their eight largest advertisers.
The FCC is empowered to remove the license of any station it deems is acting in an anticompetitive manner.