The president and CEO of a national non-profit public interest law firm, Media Access Project, says the dominance of Nexstar Broadcasting in the so-called duopoly arrangements it has with Mission Broadcasting are coming under increasing scrutiny.
Andrew Schwartzman told the Texas Tech University Daily in an article today that there are questions about whether Mission Broadcasting is actually an independent company. Some of those questions obviously come from information such as that included earlier in The Turner Report, from SEC reports and from the Akron Ohio Beacon Journal that Mission's CEO is generally out of the loop, allegedly operates the company out of a "tidy white house on a quiet street" with no transmission towers. It looks like an ordinary house, the Beacon Journal said, because it is an ordinary house.
Smith, the pastor of the St. Paul Lutheran Church in Akron, has nothing to do with the actual operation of any of Mission's stations, the article said. He enters into agreements with Nexstar to run Mission's TV stations, such as KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield. Despite his $330,000 a year salary, Smith told the newspaper, he has no day-to-day responsibilities. He didn't know what his company's business plan was or how many employees it had.
The Texas Tech newspaper's article quoted Schwartzman as saying the duopoly practice in general is under close scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission, though he had no comment on whether the Nexstar-Mission relationship was under the federal microscope.
The college newspaper wrote the story in response to the situation in Lubbock where KLBK and KAMC produce separate newscasts "using the same video and reporters without publicizing that fact, an action some experts believe is deceptive and hurtful to the diversity of voices in news."
Nexstar operates all of Mission's stations, and handles all advertising sales. According to SEC documents, by federal guidelines Nexstar would be considered to have "controlling interest" in Mission.
The Texas Tech article also mentioned the Nexstar situation in Joplin, but no officials from the Joplin stations were quoted in the story.
As a disclaimer, I should add that I was called by Brittany Barrientos, one of the three reporters (the other two were Bryan Wendell and Robin Briscoe), a couple of weeks ago and talked to her for about an hour about the television situation in Joplin and offered basic advice on where the reporters could go to find more information for their story.