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ACA to FCC: Deny Nexstar-Media General Waiver

The American Cable Association has asked the FCC to deny the request by Nexstar and Media General for a waiver of the FCC's Prohibited Communications rule, a rule that so far has blocked FCC action on Nexstar's proposed purchase of Media General.

Because Media General had indicated it would be participating in the auction—it was allowed by the FCC to signal, and did signal, that it was applying to be eligible—FCC action on the transfer could provide more specific information about the auction, which is why the FCC decided it would not act on any transfers involving such stations that were filed after a January 2016 deadline.

Nexstar and Media General sought a waiver of that Prohibited Communications rule in hopes the deal approval would not have to wait until the end of the auction for a decision. The FCC has yet to act, but there has been buzz that the FCC's Media Bureau could be weighing in any time with a decision on the waiver and perhaps contemporaneously a conditioned approval of the deal.

ACA says the Media Bureau should not be making that decision, that it should be made by a vote of the commissioners rather than the bureau, and that if it is made by a bureau it can't be the Media Bureau, which it says does not have the delegated authority to waive the spectrum auction rules. That would be the Wireless Bureau, says ACA.

Finally, whoever is reviewing it should deny the waiver, says ACA, because the broadcasters "have not met their burden to show why the extraordinary relief contemplated by the waiver is justified."

Stage three of the reverse portion of the spectrum auction ends Dec. 1, and the third phase of the reverse auction is expected to start Dec. 5. The timeline is unpredictable, but without a waiver, the FCC would likely not be ruling on the deal until early next year at the earliest.