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Appropriations Bill Would Grandfather TV JSAs

Broadcasters may not have to unwind those joint sales agreements after all.

The House Appropriations Committee June 17 passed an FCC appropriations bill that included an amendment grandfathering TV station sharing agreements in place before March 31, 2014, the date that a divided FCC voted to make TV station joint sales agreements (JSAs) over 15% attributable as ownership interest.

That required either unwinding the agreements (by next year) or selling stations (also by 2016) in markets where the agreement meant de facto ownership of two stations in markets where duopolies are not allowed.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which had opposed the FCC move, pointed out that the amendment passed by a vote of 38 to 11, including eight Democrats.

"NAB thanks the House Appropriations Committee for passing this bipartisan amendment that allows local broadcasters to continue operating joint sales agreements already approved by both Republican and Democratically controlled FCCs," National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton said. "These sharing agreements have allowed television stations, especially in small and midsized markets across America, to bolster their local news and other public service programming to the benefit of their communities. We look forward to working with lawmakers to advance the legislation through Congress."

“We are disappointed that the House Appropriations Committee sided with media conglomerates’ attempt to gut the FCC policy against the covert consolidation of local TV broadcasters," said Free Press policy counsel Lauren Wilson.

“The FCC’s recent action against joint sales agreements, or JSAs, serves the interest of people in broadcast markets across the country. Since the FCC limited broadcasters’ ability to create local duopolies, more stations have become available for new entrants and valuable spectrum has been returned to the FCC for either new diverse owners or the upcoming spectrum auction."

“All the while, the broadcast industry is still growing and is poised to make record profits during the upcoming election cycle."

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.