Editorial: You Report…

TV stations are on notice that the FCC is going to start enforcing reporting requirements for their joint sales agreements.

The action comes after a Government Accountability Office study found that between a quarter and a third of the JSAs in the FCC’s public file were only reported by one of the partner stations. If that’s true, it is clearly an omission that needs correcting.

To his credit, FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake did not hammer broadcasters over the issue in his response to the GAO after it discovered the omissions. Lake said that the commission will take action to “ensure broadcasters are aware of and in compliance with their public file obligations.”

The “aware of” is an important point. It is possible that the stations concluded that, if one of them listed, it had been listed. It could also be a case that the JSA had been dissolved and the error was not deleting both from the file, as the GAO noted. But the GAO is also right that given the goal of public disclosure, both partner stations need to report.

We hope that the broadcasters that didn’t do so simply made a mistake, and we applaud the FCC for emphasizing that they need to be made aware before assuming the worst.