Daystar Television Network has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to block the sale of KOCE-TV to a foundation run by civic and business leaders -- an action that could stall the station's transfer of ownership by six months.
The legal challenge was the second filed this month by Daystar, the world's second-largest religious broadcaster, and came as Coast Community College District officials were optimistic that the sale would be completed soon, preserving Channel 50 as a Public Broadcasting Service affiliate in Orange County.
"You going to hand me some Kleenex so I can cry?" said a frustrated George Brown, president of the college board that voted in March to accept the bid from the KOCE-TV Foundation. "We thought it was over. We were optimistic we could close the deal this month."
The cash-strapped district has been wrangling over the station's sale for about two years -- a process that began filling with intrigue last summer as serious bidders began coming forward.
Daystar, one of the major players, made a bid of $25.1 million in cash -- an offer later sweetened to $40 million.
But trustees voted instead to accept a bid from the foundation, which for 25 years has been the station's fundraising arm and which is supported by some of Orange County's wealthiest and most influential civic and business leaders, including Broadcom Corp. Chairman Henry Samueli, Conexant Chairman Dwight Decker and former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth.
In April, a Superior Court judge approved that sale, but Daystar appealed May 3, alleging that its was the highest responsible offer.
The foundation offered $28 million, which included $8 million down and the rest to be paid over 30 years at zero interest. Experts have said that the bid was worth closer to $12 million to $19 million in today's dollars.
Daystar's petition, hand-delivered Monday in Washington, asks the FCC to deny the license. It contends that the foundation does not have the money to pay for the station and that no license should be awarded until the appeal is resolved.
The college district and the foundation had hoped to complete the sale by July 1, "but that's not going to happen," said Milford Dahl, the district's attorney.
"This is going to cost the taxpayers a lot of money, and [Daystar] doesn't really have the grounds for it," Dahl said. "They know that even if this is without merit, it will just jam it up for six months or so."
Daystar's attorney did not return phone calls for comment.