Saturday, April 22, 2006

Nexstar sale of Fort Smith station should be examined

I have been surprised that there has not been more scrutiny of this week's announcement that Nexstar Broadcasting is selling KFTA to Mission Broadcasting. After all, Nexstar officials have acknowledged in their filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that they effectively have controlling interest in Mission stations, including KODE in Joplin and KOLR in Springfield.
As The Turner Report noted in May 2005, Nexstar's duopoly arrangements with Mission have brought up questions over whether Mission Broadcasting is an actual company or if it not a cover to allow Nexstar to own more than one station in a number of small markets.
Andrew Schwartzman, president and CEO of a national non-profit public interest law firm, Media Access Project, told the Texas Tech University Daily that there were serious questions about Mission, dating back to SEC filings, plus information featured in numerous sources, including The Turner Report.
The Akron Ohio Beacon Journal said in an article printed two years ago that Mission's CEO, David Smith, 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 newspaper 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 and KOLR. 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.

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