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Amendment Limiting JSA Exemption Teed Up

Look for Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to introduce an amendment to the bipartisan joint sales agreement (JSA) bill being marked up in the Senate Commerce Committee that would add some eligibility requirements.

The bill would grandfather any TV JSAs of over 15% of a station's weekly ad inventory from being unwound in markets where they would not violate local ownership rules per a March 2014 FCC ruling that such JSA's count as ownership.

The FCC did not grandfather existing JSA's that would be violate the new rules.

The amendment, according to a copy obtained by B&C/MultiChannel News, would say that for those agreements to be exempt, there cannot have been a material change to them after the March 31 effective date of the FCC decision — say, extending their contract period in anticipation of such a carveout — and that grandfathered JSAs cannot be extended beyond the current expiration date of the agreement.

It would also prevent the transfer of such an agreement to another party unless the FCC expressly grants it.

A politically divided FCC voted to make all JSAs in which a station sold more than 15% of a second stations ad inventory equivalent to co-ownership for the purposes of local ownership caps. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler signaled that he was closing a loophole that allowed lawyers to game the ownership rules, while broadcasters said that was preventing combos that could help both stations and their viewers.

The deadline for affected broadcasters to comply with the FCC JSA decision is currently Dec. 19, 2016. The FCC had given broadcasters two years, or until June 19, 2016, to unwind agreements that would violate ownership caps, but the Congress in the STELAR Act extended that deadline for six months.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.