Broadcasters will not have to unwind joint sales agreements in effect before the FCC's March 2014 tightening of those rules, according to a rider on the massive budget bill hammered out Tuesday (Dec. 15).
The FCC voted 3-2 along party lines in March 2014 to make joint sales agreements of over 15% of a station's ad sales tantamount to ownership of that station, and required the unwinding of any such JSAs that would result in ownership beyond its local (and national) limits.
"A party to a joint sales agreement that was in effect on March 31, 2014, shall not be considered to be in violation of the ownership limitations..." the bill says.
If that remains in the final bill, it will be a big victory for the National Association of Broadcasters.
"[W]e’re disappointed that the deal includes a grandfather clause that lets broadcasters off the hook from complying with a Federal Communications Commission order aimed at reducing local media monopolization," said Common Cause.
"NAB applauds all of the hard work that went into including a joint sales agreement grandfathering provision in the proposed omnibus appropriations bill," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. "This provision would allow TV stations to better serve our viewers in smaller markets, and ensure that constituents in those communities continue to have access to numerous free, local programming options. We look forward to continuing to work on a bipartisan basis to address this important issue."
The FCC had no comment.