The National Association of Broadcasters confirmed Friday (May 30) it is filing suit against the FCC over its March 31 vote—a split decision along party lines—to make joint sales agreements of 15% or more attributable under its ownership rules, according to a source familiar with the plan.
NAB had already signaled it thought the FCC move was illegal.
"NAB believes that a fact-based examination of today's marketplace would show that FCC ownership restrictions against free and local broadcasters are outdated in a world of national pay TV giants," said NAB EVP Dennis Wharton in a statement. "These rules – some of which have not been altered since 1975 – place broadcasters at a competitive disadvantage as we strive to continue delivering news, entertainment and lifeline programming to local communities across America."
NAB will argue the FCC violated its congressional mandate by not completing its 2010 quadrennial review (it decided to role it into the 2014), and did not justify the JSA change.
"It's disappointing the FCC would take this action without first completing its 2010 statutorily mandated media ownership review," Wharton said after the JSA vote. "As the record before the Commission clearly shows, the public interest will not be served by this arbitrary and capricious decision."
A regulatory agency is not allowed, by law, to make arbitrary and capricious decisions.
NAB will file in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which has principal jurisdiction over FCC decisions.
NAB has already sued the FCC in that court over the Media Bureau's new guidance on vetting sharing arrangements. NAB argued that that guidance functions as a "categorical presumption" against such deals and arbitrarily and capriciously invalidates existing deals.
Sinclair this week said it would surrender three TV station licenses to insure there were no sharing or joint agreements to try and get its Allbritton deal approved.