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FCC Declines to Block WQXR Sale

Doyle reiterates that the possible impact of a sale on a format is not a commission concern

The New York Times may proceed with its sale of classical formatted WQXR(FM) in New York.

Peter H. Doyle, chief of the Media Bureau’s Audio Division at the Federal Communications Commission, has declined the objections of several people who complained due to concerns over the possible impact on its format.

“While the commission appreciates that WQXR(FM)’s classical music format has attracted a devoted listenership, it is well-settled policy that the commission does not scrutinize or regulate programming, nor does it take potential changes in programming formats into consideration in reviewing assignment applications,” Doyle wrote.

He reminded the parties that in 1976, the FCC issued a policy statement in which it concluded that review of program formats was not required by the law, would not benefit the public, would “deter innovation and would impose substantial administrative burdens on the commission.”

“The Supreme Court of the United States has upheld this policy and the commission’s determination that ‘the public interest is best served by promoting diversity in entertainment formats through market forces and competition among broadcasters …’ and that a change in programming is not a material factor that should be considered by the commission in ruling on applications for license transfer,” Doyle continued.

“Additionally, the commission is not authorized to deny a proposed assignment based on the comparative service that a party other than the proposed assignee might provide to the public.”

The sale of the license to Univision’s WADO is a part of a three-way transaction that RW reported in July, under which WNYC will end up with the WQXR call letters and move the classical format to 105.9 FM. Univision will use WQXR’s 96.3 frequency for tropical formatting.