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FCC Acts on Television JSAs

Pai, NAB calls action “arbitrary and capricious”

The FCC voted to place restrictions on Joint Sales Agreements for television.

The move was expected; we previously reported new Chairman Tom Wheeler wanted to pattern television JSAs like radio JSAs, and make it harder for one company to control two or more TV stations in the same market by using a single advertising sales staff.

Wheeler has argued that joint sales agreements have been used by larger broadcast companies to circumvent limits of owning more than one station in local markets and should be seen as possible violations of the media ownership rules. 

The new rule mandates that if one station sells 15% or more of advertising time of a competing station’s, then that ownership stake is “attributable” and “counts” under the media ownership rules — just like radio.

Stations can apply for waivers and the commission has 90 days to act on those.

The vote was 3–2 along party lines.

In a scathing dissension, Commissioner Ajit Pai called the issue “the most unfortunate item I have encountered” since coming to the agency in 2012. He took the commission to task for not acting on the 2010 iteration of the media ownership quadrennial review; 2010 is now being rolled into the one being launched today.

Pai also doesn’t like that the television JSA issue was singled out for action by the chairman, noting that JSAs promote localism and diversity. He would have preferred to see the commission eliminate the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership bans and said the courts would be justified to order the FCC to remove the rules from the books.

“It’s disappointing the FCC would take this action without first completing its 2010 statutorily-mandated media ownership review,” said NAB EVP Communications Dennis Wharton, who called the decision to focus solely on TV JSAs “arbitrary and capricious.”