The Federal Communications Commission yesterday reaffirmed its decision to strip RKO General Inc. of Television licenses in Boston, New York and Los Angeles because of corporate misconduct by its parent corporation.
By a 4-to-3 vote, the commission gave final approval to a decision last January to deny RKO's application for a renewal of its license for WNAC-TV, the CBS affiliate in Boston, and said it also found RKO unqualified to maintain its licenses for KHJ-TV in Los Angeles and WOR-TV in New York City.
The FCC majority said it based its decision on action by RKO's parent, General Tire and Rubber Co., which engaged in a pattern of activities including illegal payments abroad. Thecommissioners also noted that RKO had filed false financial statements and deliberately withheld relevant information from the FCC in the WNAC renewal proceedings.
The majority acted over vigorous dissent by three commissioners. Commissioner Abbott Washburn said the action "departs from a long history of limited inquiry into an applicant's nonbroadcasting conduct to measure the ability to operate a broadcast station in the public interest."
"The foreign payments, secret bank accounts, etc., of a corporate parent of a broadcast licensee bear little or no reasonable relationship either to the service rendered by the licensee's stations or to the commission's regulatory function," he said. "I find it hard to see how the parent's wrongdoing overseas has anything to do with the public service rendered by any of its 16 stations, such as WGMS, the good-music station here in the District of Columbia."
But the FCC said that General Tire and Rubber Co. not only controls RKO as a legal matter but "has exercised practical control over RKO operations in certain respects and has involved the broadcast operations in serious misconduct."
The fate of RKO's 13 other stations, including WGMS, was left up in air. The commission noted that it must consider the effect of the disqualification on those licenses as well. RKO has offered a spin-off proposal that would transfer the 13 stations to a new corporation.
In another action, the FCC proposed doing away with a lengthy application form for radio and television license renewal, substituting instead a postcard-sized renewal form supplmented by random audits of stations seeking to renew their licenses.
Ferris called the proposal "a dramatic reduction" in paperwork requirements for the stations.