GOP Senators To FCC: Don't Change JSAs Outside Quadrennial Review

The National Association of Broadcasters is collecting support for its pushback on an FCC proposal to make TV joint sales agreements above 15% of a station's ad time attributable as ownership interest in that station.

The latest comes from six Republican senators who have written FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to say they are "deeply concerned" that the move, which Wheeler plans to vote on at the March 31 meeting, comes before the FCC wraps up its 2010 quadrennial ownership review and before it has launched its 2014 review. Wheeler plans to launch a combined 2010/2014 review at that same March 31 meeting.

"[We] disagree with your suggestion that, before attending to its statutory obligation, the Commission should act to change attribution rules for TV station joint sales agreements in isolation."

Over on the House side, the Communications Subcommittee this week passed a draft bill of satellite TV legislation that would, at least tentatively, block the JSA limitation unless it was part of the larger quadrennial review, saying to do otherwise would put the cart before the horse.

"It is difficult to understand the sudden urgency to carve out one specific facet of the rules for modification when the intended statutorily-required process for measured, comprehensive consideration has been neglected for so long," they wrote.

One of the reasons the 2010 is so overdue is that the FCC's various proposed rule revisions have been tied up in court challenges and remands from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Picking up on NAB's argument that limiting JSAs could harm diversity, the senators warn the chairman that if he goes ahead with his plan, "the Commission must bear in mind the potential negative impact of this change to minority ownership."

The chairman has said, as recently as a House Financial Services Subcommittee hearing this week, that his proposal will not harm diversity, and includes a waiver process that will allow JSAs that truly benefit diversity and the public interest.

Signing the letter were Sens. Timothy Scott (S.C.), Roger Wicker (Miss.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Dan Coats (Ind.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).

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.