Missouri Legislators Ask That JSAs Be Grandfathered

The Missouri congressional delegation — seven Republicans, two Democrats — have told FCC Chairman Wheeler he needs to respect the grandfathered joint sales agreements.

In a letter to Wheeler Thursday, they said they "fully expect" the FCC to grandfather existing JSAs. In addition, they want any deals in the pipeline should also be considered under the old rules.

The legislators said that there is evidence in their state of the benefits of sharing arrangements. They said that through a series of such arrangements--they did not identify whether they were joint sales, shared services or shared news services, or a combination of all--a company was able to expand ad sales, reduce "redundant costs" and invest, helping a struggling station become an Edward R. Murrow award winner for best newscast. They pointed to a JSA that allowed for the upgrade of Doppler radar, a system that saved lives during a 2011 tornado, and said sharing agreements can benefit diversity.

Wheeler has said that there will be a waiver policy to allow for sharing arrangements that benefit diversity or the public interest. Broadcasters are said to be trying to make that waiver as specific and expedient as possible.

The FCC is planning to vote March 31 to make JSAs above 15% of a station's ad time attributable as ownership interest. Multiple sources have said the initial draft did not grandfather existing JSA’s that would violate ownership limits, though it gave them a couple of years to unwind them or sell another station.

Mirroring the National Association of Broadcasters' pushback on JSA limits, the legislators also said they thought the FCC should not change JSA's except as part of its quadrennial review. The chairman plans to launch a combined 2010 and 2014 quadrennial at the same meeting, which will take months to complete.

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.