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ACA Pushes SSA Review as Part of Quadrennial

The American Cable Association last week pressed the FCC on the issue of joint services agreements, which it argues are an end-run around the media ownership rules and result in unfair bargaining power in retrans negotiations.

In meetings last week with a top staffer for Commissioner Michael Copps, ACA execs pushed the commission to deal with the issue in its ongoing quadrennial review of those rules per its congressional mandate.

ACA argues the joint agreements violate local market caps, as well as the national ownership rule and attribution rules. The FCC's local market rule allows an entity to own two TV stations in the same market if their service areas don't overlap or they are not one of the top four stations in the market. In either case, at least eight independently owned stations must remain in the market.

It is also complaining that stations affiliated with one network and program a second affiliate on their digital multicast channel are skirting the dual network rule, although that rule is a prohibition on a station affiliating with a company that owned two of the major networks. ACA argues that the multicast secondary network affiliations "do locally what the networks are forbidden from doing nationally."

It looks like ACA will get its wish. According to sources, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is currently circulating a proposed rulemaking that would tee up the question of whether shared services agreements (SSAs) and other joint operating agreements should be considered as violating the local TV station ownership cap.