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Published: 5/26/2007

FCC approves Ch. 48 transfer to Cornerstone

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Federal Communications Commission has approved the transfer of troubled local TV station Channel 48 - Channel 58 on Buckeye CableSystem - to a subsidiary of Cornerstone Church in Maumee.

The FCC rejected the objections filed by the station's previous owners, L&M Video Productions Inc., in favor of the applicants, Matrix Broadcast Media Inc.

The ruling officially reassigns the license, but allows 30 days for objections to be filed, said Jerry Jones, the president and general manager of Matrix.

"We're ecstatic. I think the ruling is very fair and based upon the evidence the FCC was able to review," Mr. Jones said yesterday.

The Rev. Robert Pitts, associate and business pastor of Cornerstone, said Matrix has been running the station, which uses the call letters WMNT, since July, 2006.

Cornerstone Church invested money in L&M Video, but then sought control of Channel 48 after it was taken from L&M and placed in receivership.

The station features secular programming, including Detroit Pistons basketball and America's Funniest Home Videos.

The ruling by Hossein Hashemzadeh, associate chief of the FCC's video division, rejected the claims of LaMaree "Marty" Miller, majority owner with his wife, Linda Miller, of L&M Video.

Mr. Hashemzadeh said that Mr. Miller had not filed his objection in time, nor had he filed the required affidavits, so he treated it as an informal objection.

Mr. Hashemzadeh rejected Mr. Miller's claims that Matrix's and Cornerstone's principals were under investigation by a variety of agencies, including the Toledo Bar Association, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Ohio Department of Commerce.

He said all the complaints appeared to have been initiated by Mr. Miller himself, and none of them resulted in disciplinary or criminal charges.

Mr. Miller could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Pitts indicated no immediate changes in WMNT's format.

He said it was relief that two years of wrangling over the broadcast license are almost over.

"I have been at the center of his allegations for years, and Marty's never won anything except extensions in court. They no longer have an asset, which was the license," Mr. Pitts said.

He said the profit-making venture provides revenue to run the 6,000-member church and its mission.

"The avenues that we have that are profit-producing help fund our vision and our outreaches and things we are doing all over the world," Mr. Pitts said.

WMNT, which stands for My Network TV, was formerly called WNGT, which stood for New Generation Television, Mr. Pitts said.

Cornerstone's involvement in the television station came about because it was an investor in L&M Video, and later became a creditor.

The Millers bought the low-power station for $160,000 in 1996. It was the first minority-owned television station based in Toledo.

The Millers began borrowing money from Cornerstone Church in December, 1997, to run the station.

Mr. Pitts said Cornerstone was always careful to treat its involvement as an investment rather than a loan, and to make sure its investment was secured.

The station has been in receivership since early 2005, when Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Wittenberg appointed Sylvania attorney Ralph DeNune III as receiver to preserve the station's assets.

Mr. DeNune removed the Millers from management of Channel 48 in July, 2006, and transferred control to Matrix.

Mr. DeNune put TV 48 up for sale; Cornerstone Church's $914,000 bid was the highest. The sale is pending the FCC's final decision.

In April, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Ann Whipple granted Cornerstone Church's motion to dismiss the bankruptcy case of L&M Video.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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