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Rockefeller Asks FCC To Proceed With Caution on Mergers

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has told FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler he thinks the commission should delay decisions on recent broadcast mergers--those include Sinclair purchases, Gannett/Belo and others--until the Government Accountability Office has completed a report on the use of shared services agreements.

He also asked the FCC to look at use of the SSAs by those potential merged broadcast partners as it considers the deals, making sure to collect the necessary information to understand their impact on competition and consumers.

Cable operators, led by the American Cable Association, have been asking the FCC to factor in the use of SSAs to get around local ownership limits and coordinate retransmission consent negotiations. Rockefeller in May asked GAO to look into SSAs, particularly in situations where full ownership would violate media limits.

Rockefeller said he was not taking a position on any of those deals in the pipeline. He wants the FCC to proceed with caution and said it "may be wise for the FCC to wait to approve any pending transaction that involves SSAs or related arrangements until GAO has completed its study and issued its report."

Rockefeller did not say when that might be.