Senate Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.
Va.) has asked the Government Accountability Office to look into the impact of TV
station joint sales agreements (JSAs) and shared service agreements (SSAs) on
In a letter dated Monday, Rockefeller outlined some of the
criticisms of the joint agreements leveled
by small cable operators and others, including that they inflate retrans
rates when those stations coordinate negotiations, drive up subscription fees
for consumers and that they are a way to circumvent local ownership caps.
He pointed out that the FCC years ago imposed limits on
radio JSAs, requiring that any station that sold over 15% of the ad time on
another would be deemed to have an attributable ownership interest in that
station. The FCC tentatively concluded the same should apply to TV JSAs.
Rockefeller said that in light of the
"serious questions" raised about the impact of those and other
coordination arrangements, he wants GAO to take a "closer look" at
that coordination, including how broadcasters use the agreements, how many such
arrangements there are (he tells GAO he will want to know why they can't
determine that if they are unable to), whether the arrangements make
programming blackouts more likely or raise costs of services, do they result in
more local programming or simply duplication on multiple outlets, what would
prevent the FCC from requiring copies of all JSA's and SSA's and other evidence
of coordination be placed in a public file, and whether there should be some
aspects of them that are regulated.