(AP) A federal judge has ordered Tribune Co., the Chicago-based media company that owns The Hartford Courant, to sell its TV station WTXX in Waterbury, Conn., to comply with media ownership rules.
The Federal Communication Commission has been trying to repeal the so-called “cross-ownership” rule, which prohibits companies from owning a TV station and a newspaper in the same market. The FCC says the rule has become outdated, but consumer advocates say the rule helps preserve diversity of voices in the news media.
Tribune, which owns WTXX and WTIC-TV in Hartford, purchased the Courant when it acquired Times Mirror Publications in 2000.
The FCC ordered Tribune to sell WTXX, a WB affiliate, in 2001, but granted extensions that expired in August 2002. The company has asked for a permanent waiver of the cross-ownership rules but said it has not received a reply.
“The very nature of the waiver request indicates that Tribune views itself as being in violation of that order and in need of relief from its terms,” U.S. District Judge Christopher F. Droney said in his ruling Monday. “Tribune has never claimed that its ownership of WTXX, in conjunction with its ownership of WTIC and The Hartford Courant, complied with the FCC’s cross-ownership rule.”
Real estate developer Neal Ellis asked the federal court in 2003 to force Tribune to comply with the 2001 order. Ellis is the husband of Elizabeth Ellis, publisher of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, a Hartford suburb.
Also in 2003, the Republican-dominated FCC voted to modify its rules to allow cross-ownership in many markets. The changes were overturned in 2004 by a federal court in Philadelphia. The FCC did not appeal the Philadelphia court’s ruling.
Tribune officials said the company would appeal and seek a stay to block Droney’s ruling.
Droney said Tribune also has until April 2007 — when WTIC’s broadcast license is up for renewal — to resolve its ownership of that station, a Fox affiliate.