Will the sale of KFMB result in less GOP air time? Maybe not.
As San Diego Republicans fret over organized labor's rising clout, a local GOP media stalwart is selling out to a national broadcast chain, ending an era of outsized influence by a clique of La Jolla mega-millionaires over the city’s political fate.
Latest to liquidate are heirs to late Illinois banker August Meyer, Sr., whose Champaign-based Midwest Television, Inc., bought KFMB-TV and its AM and FM radio stations in 1964.
Over the years, opinionated stars of KFMB have included ex–news anchor and mayoral candidate Dick Carlson, father of Tucker Carlson, now of Fox News; fallen San Diego mayor Roger Hedgecock; and Mark Larson, a Fox News regular and frequent master of ceremonies for GOP candidates, including former Texas governor Rick Perry.
Rick Perry and Mark Larson
"Mark has played a major role in making KFMB one of the more prominent stations in America," said Augie Meyer, Jr., when Larson was promoted to national program director/radio for Midwest in 1986.
Augie, Jr.'s daughter Elisabeth Kimmel has been running the KFMB stations with a similar political bent. Her financial support for Republican city-council candidate Carl DeMaio grew contentious during DeMaio's 2014 congressional race when Hedgecock, then a KFMB talk-show host, refused airtime to DeMaio's GOP foe Kirk Jorgensen.
"I would like to have a complaint put [into] KFMB's Public File. I would like to complain about Roger Hedgecock and the blatant campaigning he is doing for Carl DeMaio. I think this clearly violates the journalistic and ethical standards KFMB holds,” said an email sent to the station by Brian Kyd.
Adding to the controversy was Hedgecock's use of the station’s address to collect funds for DeMaio's campaign. "Once in a while a candidate for Congress comes along that really impresses me — so much so that I personally contribute to them," said a Hedgecock email.
“I want to introduce you to one such leader: CARL DEMAIO. Mark my words — you will be hearing a lot more about Carl DeMaio in the coming months and years. Think Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.”
Longtime media-watchers predict Midwest’s sale of the KFMB stations, along with a digital sub-channel that carries the CW network, to Tegna, Inc., for $325 million could ultimately alter the color of their coverage, but the ownership merry-go-round may be far from over.
Proprietor of 46 television stations in 38 cities following a 2015 spinoff from Gannett, Tegna itself could become an acquisition target for media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
Currently divesting the bulk of 20th Century Fox to the Walt Disney Company, Murdoch will retain control of cable’s Fox News, with the prospect of snapping up Tegna to expand its broadcast empire.
Then there is Nexstar, a giant Irving, Texas-based TV chain run by Perry Sook of Dallas, said to be interested in a merger with Tegna.
Michael McKinnon and his wife
The change of ownership at KFMB marks the second time wealthy La Jolla Republican media players have exited the scene here, following the sale in May 2015 of the Union-Tribune by developer Doug Manchester to Chicago-based Tribune Publishing. That firm has since morphed into the newspaper chain known as tronc.
Still holding down what remains of the Republican’s media fort, at least for the time being, is KUSI-TV owner Mike McKinnon, another big-money backer of San Diego GOP causes.