looks like FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wants at least some same-market
joint sales agreements (JSAs) between TV stations -- likely ones that meet some
minimum threshold of sales -- to count toward local ownership caps for the
stations providing those services.
Multiple sources confirmed that
attribution for "certain JSAs" was part of the quadrennial review order circulated by FCC Chairman Julius
Genachowski among the other commissioners for a vote, though those sources had
not done a deep dive into the details. Not being counted against ownership totals are shared services agreements (SSAQ's), according to a highly placed FCC source. Some commenters, including cable operators, had pushed the commission to include those as well.
The FCC in 2003 voted to make
radio JSAs attributable, but did not extend that to TV. The following year, it tentatively concluded that it
should. In releasing its
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the quadrennial review in December of last
year, the commission again asked whether it was time to extend it to TV, but
said it had reached no conclusion.
Even some opponents of adding TV
JSAs to the attribution roster have wondered why the FCC hadn't dropped that
other shoe before now.
The FCC currently limits local TV
station owners to no more than two stations in a market (a duopoly) so long as
one of the stations is not among the top for stations in the market based on
market share and at least eight independently owned stations remain in the
market. Now, selling ad time on another TV station in the market could trigger
The FCC already counts certain local
marketing agreements (LMAs) toward its local limits. Those are deals in which a broker buys blocks on time
on a station, supplies the programming and sells the ad time.
While FCC sources had seen the
summary of the order, they had not gotten into the details of the extensive
document at press time. That may have been because staffers were working on
vetting the Tribune Waiver decision, which the Media Bureau's wants to release
As a result, those sources did
not know whether existing JSAs would be grandfathered under the proposal, and
if so, for how long. In the case of radio, stations had two years to come into
compliance, according to an attorney familiar with the rules.
According to sources, the "certain JSAs" meant those selling 15% or more of the other station's ad time, the same threshhold it applied to radio JSAs. And however the FCC slices it, the National Association of Broadcasters, which opposes the move, won't be happy if that part of the order survives edits from the commissioners now vetting the item. NAB declined comment at presstime.
Most likely that part of the
order will have the three Democrat votes it needs to survive any pushback from
Republicans on the commission.
Cable operators, broadcast unions
and others have complained that JSAs and other joint sales and services
agreements constitute de facto control by the brokering stations and are simply
a way to skirt local market caps and give the combined stations more leverage
in joint retrans negotiations.
Broadcasters have argued that many
multichannel video providers have "substantially larger" shares of a
local market than TV stations, even broadcasters with joint sales or services
agreements for more than one station in a market. They say that trying to achieve
carriage negotiation "symmetry" by limiting broadcasters' local
market scale would be bound to fail.