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NAB Sues FCC Over Sharing Arrangement Guidance

The National Association of Broadcasters says it has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to throw out the FCC's March 12 guidance on how it would review TV station sharing arrangements in station deals.

NAB says the guidance functions as a "categorical presumption" against such deals, which "adversely affects" NAB and its members by rendering such previously allowed deals invalid.

NAB has been highly critical of the guidance and asked the Media Bureau to withdraw it and not to apply it.

NAB told the court that the public notice essentially adopts rules without the required notice and comment, is arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion, exceeds the Media Bureau's authority, and more.

NAB had already told the FCC it thought the move was illegal and essentially gave the Media Bureau until May 8 to take it back (, or else. Monday, it followed through with the "or else."

NAB pointed out in initially asking the Media Bureau to withdraw the item that in its March 31 decision to make TV station joint sales agreements (JSAs) over 15% attributable as ownership interest, the FCC included no decision on any other kind of sharing agreement and, in fact, expressly said that vote “does not disturb other sharing agreements, such as those that allow stations to share facilities, provide local news production assistance, or share administrative and technical personnel, and any operational efficiencies and related potential public interest benefits created by these agreements will continue.”

Given that statement, said NAB, "The Public Notice’s pronouncement that the Media Bureau immediately will regulate SSAs with contingent interests by applying different and greater scrutiny cannot be reconciled with the approach adopted in the March 31 Decision."

In addition, said NAB, the bureau's actions are "fatally premature" because the FCC is, in effect, regulating on "speculation and conjecture" since the FCC has not adopted the standards the public notice suggests the FCC will use.