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Saga’s Acquisition of Two Stations in Cortland, N.Y., Will Stand

Ithaca group FLAIM fails to convince FCC to overturn permission.

The sale of two radio stations in Cortland, N.Y., will stand, despite efforts by the Finger Lakes Alliance for Independent Media.

FLAIM has lost in its attempt to convince the FCC to rescind the transfer of the stations from Citadel to Saga.

The ruling is by Peter Doyle, chief of the Audio Division of the Media Bureau.

The case began in late 2006 when the FCC granted applications for Citadel to transfer WKRT(AM) and WIII(FM), both in Cortland, N.Y., to Saga, a deal that was consummated the following September.

FLAIM, made up of individuals who live and work in nearby Ithaca, wanted the commission to reconsider, saying that although Saga complies with station ownership rules, its operation of five stations in the Ithaca market would result in undue concentration of ownership that would impede viewpoint diversity.

They argued that the FCC had evaluated the deal inappropriately by applying the “bright line” test for multiple ownership, in which the commission specified that Arbitron-defined “Metros” constitute the presumptive markets. FLAIM felt that some stations attributed to the Ithaca Metro do not actually provide meaningful service there.

The FCC noted that the group had made similar arguments in an earlier petition against Saga buying another station in Ithaca, a petition that was denied. FLAIM filed an application for review in that case, which the FCC also turned down.

In the current case, Saga and Citadel said the FLAIM petition was untimely, that the group had had the opportunity to file a petition to deny by the standard deadline and didn’t. The FCC now has rejected several FLAIM arguments as to why its petition should have been accepted.

The commission also wrote that even if it had accepted the petition as the equivalent of an informal objection, it would have dismissed it because it was filed after the applications were granted; and even if it had considered FLAIM’s petition on the merits, it still would have been denied.

In the course of the case, FLAIM told the FCC that the commission should “take note of the widespread local resistance among Ithaca’s civic leaders to Saga’s continued expansion of market power.”