FCC Votes to Make Some TV JSAs Attributable

As expected, the FCC voted Monday, to make joint sales agreements (JSAs) of more than 15% of a station’s ad sales attributable under ownership rules. The vote was 3 to 2, with the Republicans harshly critical.

Commissioners Ajit Pai called it an evidence-free decision that the court should invalidate, and Commissioner Michael O'Rielly shared similar disdain.

The FCC also voted 3-2 to launch a combined 2010/2014 quadrennial media ownership rule review that tentatively concludes that the prohibitions on newspaper-broadcast crossownership rules should not be lifted, even while it concedes the growth of broadband competition.

Again, the Republicans strongly dissented. Pai called for court intervention, even without anyone asking, saying the court should issue a write of mandamus invalidating the crossownership rules, which he pointed out numerous former FCC chairs have said did not still belong on the books.

As previously reported, the FCC order on JSAs does not grandfather existing combos, but gives them two years to unwind. Pai pointed out that the Media Bureau had suggested the overall quadrennial review might not be completed until June 2016, which he pointed out would be after the JSAs had to be unwound.

He said that was the definition of arbitrary and capricious, as was cherrypicking JSAs for action.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the item was simply repairing the rules to close a loophole allowing for de facto control where the FCC rules otherwise prevent it. He said the waiver process--there is a 90-day shot clock for action--would allow for expeditious resolution of requests for waivers. That reportedly came at the insistence of Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.

"Today we are closing off a growing end run around [FCC] rules," Wheeler said, while making it clear that JSAs are appropriate if they further competition, localism and diversity.

John Eggerton

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.