Pai: FCC Should Study JSAs Before Limiting Them

FCC commissioner Ajit Pai says he has done some joint sales agreement (JSA) research of his own and that they disproportionately benefit women and African Americans.

Pai is no fan of FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal to make JSAs above 15% attributable as ownership. He is joined by fellow Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn is said to be looking for a compromise that recognizes the benefit of JSAs to minority stations.

Pai said Thursday that his office had "investigated" the "link between joint sales agreements and ownership diversity" and found, using public sources, that 43% of the female-owned full-power commercial TV stations are currently parties to JSAs, and 75% of African American-owned full power commercial stations.

He did not supply the raw figures, but by most accounts there are only a handful of African American owned TV stations. An aide to Pai said that the 75% was three of only four African American-owned TV stations they could find through their own research--the FCC did not have a figure, he said. Those three were two Armstrong WIlliam stations with Sinclar JSA's and one station in Mississippi, WLOO-TV Jackson.

Pai said the findings raise "serious questions," like:  "Why the FCC is targeting pro-competitive sharing arrangements."

“Before we vote to restrict the use of JSAs, the Commission should conduct a formal study to evaluate whether these figures are accurate and how any action on our part would impact diversity in broadcast ownership," he said. "Last year, we delayed a vote on changing our newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule so that a study of the proposal’s impact on minority ownership could be completed. The current proposal regarding JSAs should be held to the same standard.”

Wheeler has scheduled a vote for March 31 on JSA attribution, an item that does include a waiver process for JSAs that promote public interest goals like 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.