The National Association of Broadcasters is suggesting that the FCC is not being consistent in its treatment of Dish in the AWS-3 auction and its treatment of broadcasters when it comes to joint sales agreements (JSAs).
In a blog posting Thursday (Feb. 19), Jerianne Timmerman, NAB senior VP and senior deputy general counsel for legal and regulatory affairs, suggested the FCC couldn't square the disparate treatments.
That stems from Dish's participation in the ASW-3 auction via two companies in which it holds a majority interest, yet apparently does do not count as ownership when it comes to qualifying, or at least applying, for $3 billion in bidding credits.
"How in the world does the FCC square its treatment of various forms of ownership? Why can't a small TV station in South Dakota or South Carolina sell 20 percent of the advertising time of another station without the FCC saying it 'owns' that station, when DISH can possess an 85 percent interest in a company without the FCC counting that as ownership," she asked.
The FCC voted along party lines last March to consider that a station that sells more than 15% of weekly ad time for another station in the same market would be considered co-owned for the purposes of local ownership station limits.
"NAB and its members have for decades fought the FCC's disparate restrictions on the multiple and cross-ownership of television and radio stations – restrictions that do not apply to competing video and audio providers, including cable, satellite and online," she wrote. "The FCC must stop this unfair treatment if it truly cares about competition, diversity and localism."
“The Commission takes seriously its obligation to provide bidding credits only to those entities that are eligible to receive them," said an FCC spokesperson. "Existing FCC rules mandate that before awarding any license or bidding credit, the Commission conduct a thorough review of every provisional winner to ensure compliance with eligibility rules. For 20 years, the Commission’s competitive bidding rules have provided flexibility to enable a wide variety of applicants – including small businesses – to participate in the auction process, while including safeguards to protect the integrity of its auction program. As part of the auction closing process, the FCC is carefully reviewing winning bidders’ applications before awarding any bidding credits."