Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) is among those warning about potential FCC-blocking riders that could be attached to the omnibus budget bill that passed in October.
Among the riders the Republicans have teed up is one that would grandfather joint sales agreements existing at the time the FCC adopted new rules (March 2014), in a 3-2 politically divided decision making JSAs over 15% of a station's sales attributable as ownership interest (another rider would prevent the FCC from using its new Title II authority over ISPs to impose rate regulations).
In her prepared testimony for Thursday's Media Ownership hearing in the House Communications Subcommittee—of which she is ranking member—Eshoo called out the rider, expressing her "deep concern with any effort through the appropriations process that would seriously undermine the FCC's media ownership rules and our efforts to promote greater broadcast ownership diversity."
"The issue of JSAs was actively debated in our Subcommittee last year and ultimately compromise language was included in the STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014, which gave broadcasters additional time to unwind from these agreements [until Dec. 31,2016]," she said.
"Now there are reports that the appropriations process could be used as a way to overturn the FCC’s action and gut the agreement we reached in STELA by permanently grandfathering existing JSAs. I oppose such policy riders and urge my colleagues to do the same."
The chairman of the subcommittee, Greg Walden (R-Ore.), a former broadcaster, was among those behind a stand-alone version of the rider that would have grandfathered those JSAs as well, which was itself a companion to a Senate bill that would have done so.
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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.