call sign question

Scott Fybush
Fri Jun 22 22:16:09 EDT 2007

Kevin Vahey wrote:
> So in other words it is up to the seller? I forgot about WFLA in Tampa
> keeping its call.

The way the rules work now, a base call (say, WFLA) can be used across 
multiple services (an AM with no suffix, plus -FM, -TV, -LP as an LPFM, 
-LP as an LPTV, -LD as a digital LPTV, -CA as a class A TV and -CD as a 
digital class A TV) by multiple owners in multiple markets. The only 
condition is that whoever's had the base call the longest gets to decide 
whether other owners can use it as well.

A real-world example of this is WORC. The calls were on WORC(AM) before 
they were on WORC-FM, and while the AM and FM are now under separate 
owners, it would be up to the owners of WORC(AM) to decide whether 
another licensee could have a WORC-TV or a WORC-LP.

It has now become quite common, as in the ABC case, for the rights to 
continued use of a set of call letters to be a major condition of a 
station sale. I'm sure Citadel would have wanted a sizable discount on 
their purchase price if they'd been forced to change the calls on WABC, 
WLS, KGO and KABC, losing the heritage that those calls bring to those 

It's also not uncommon to see a station license its calls to a 
separately-owned station in another service. Here in Rochester, 
Nexstar's WROC-TV licensed its calls to Entercom for use on what's now 
WROC(AM), in exchange for promotional credits and a simulcast of the TV 
station's evening news.

And it should be noted that WFLA-TV in Tampa actually didn't keep its 
call at first. When Media General sold WFLA radio, the calls went with 
the radio station and the TV station became WXFL for a few years. (That 
sale, if I recall right, came just before the FCC relaxed the rules.)

In later years, after the rules changed, WFLA-TV was able to reclaim its 
old calls, with the permission of whoever then owned WFLA(AM), which 
would have been Jacor, most likely.


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