The FCC Media Bureau granted a waiver on Aug. 6 to WMGM-TV of a new commission rule requiring all top four network affiliates in the nation’s 50 largest TV markets to post their political file online by Aug. 2.
The new commission rule gives non-top-four network affiliates in the top markets, as well as all stations in smaller markets, until July 1, 2014, to begin posting their political files to a new FCC-hosted website set up to give the public easier access to the public files of television stations.
WMGM-TV, an NBC affiliate, is licensed to Wildwood, NJ, and assigned to the Philadelphia DMA, which is the No. 4 DMA, according to The Nielsen Company. The station, on July 31, wrote a letter to the FCC requesting a waiver saying it should be treated like a small market station and given till July 1, 2014, to begin complying with the new rule.
In the letter, the station explained that WMGM-TV is not the primary NBC affiliate serving the Philadelphia DMA. Rather, WCAU-TV, which is licensed to Philadelphia, is the primary NBC affiliate serving the market and that the digital signal contours of both stations cover different parts of the market, with the exception of minor overlap.
The letter also explained that WMGM-TV serves the Atlantic City, NJ, market, not Philadelphia. However, Nielsen has chosen to include the station in the Philadelphia DMA because it does not recognize Atlantic City as a separate market. WMGM-TV competes only in the Atlantic City portion of the Philadelphia DMA, the letter said.
The station told the FCC that it has limited staff to meet the new obligation and that in 1995 the agency granted a request from WMGM to be treated for the sake of regulatory fees as a station not in the top 100 TV markets as determined by Nielsen.
In granting the waiver and extending the station’s compliance deadline till July 2012, the Media Bureau said: “WMGM has shown that it serves — and has served — a smaller market, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and that it is not the primary network-affiliate in the Philadelphia DMA.”
The Media Bureau added that forcing WMGM to comply with the deadline set for network affiliates in the top markets “would run counter to the rationale underlying the exemption for smaller market stations and would be inconsistent with the public interest.”
On July 30, the FCC granted WHAG-TV a waiver rule under similar circumstance. In that instance, WHAG-TV is licensed to the Washington, D.C., market (DMA 8 according to Nielsen’s 2012 rankings) but actually serves the Hagerstown, MD, market.