Rep. Neal: LIN's JSAs Should Transfer

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) has written the FCC asking Chairman Tom Wheeler to consider grandfathering existing joint sales agreements, as well as ones already filed for, and allowing all those to transfer when stations are sold.

The chairman has signaled that he plans to vote March 31 to make JSAs above 15% attributable and according to FCC sources the item also would require current JSAs above that to be unwound over a couple of years if they violate ownership limits, either national - 39% total reach - or local caps on multiple station ownership in a market.

In a letter to Wheeler dated March 20, Neal advised a "measured" approach to reviewing JSAs. Wheeler has said that the JSA move would include a waiver process for sharing arrangements found to benefit localism and diversity.

Neal pointed to LIN Media and its JSAs. He said its four JSAs had been filed per FCC rules and the company had made "substantial" investments in small markets based on those JSAs, which were approved. "This investment has added local content, local jobs, and local opportunities for businesses," said Neal.

"I encourage you to consider grandfathering JSAs that were filed with approved long-form FCC applications and to make that grandfathering transferable"--as in when the stations are sold to someone else. "Investments in smaller markets have been made based on the prior FCC grants, and I would hope the Commission would respect those investments in the public interest," he added.

Media General announced March 21 that it was proposing to buy LIN Media's stations, which would trigger such transfers, but a spokesman for the congressman said they had "no prior knowledge of the agreement."

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.