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Unions Urge FCC to Make All SSAs Attributable

Broadcast and newspaper unions are urging the FCC to immediately require broadcasters to disclose their sharing arrangements to the FCC, arguing that should be one of their public interest obligations and saying all shared services agreements (SSAs) should be treated as attributable ownership interests.

They also want the FCC to conclude that its local TV and radio station ownership limits and newspaper/broadcast crossownership limits should be retained.

One reason they give for keeping those regs is the upcoming incentive auction and its inevitable reduction in broadcast voices.

"While most of the elements that the Commission must examine in reviewing the continuing need for its broadcast ownership rules are well-established," they said, "there is one new and important consideration which provides strong additional reason the Commission should conclude that existing television ownership rules are necessary in the public interest. Under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, the Commission will soon conduct an incentive auction which will reduce the number of operating television stations."

Those arguments came in comments from the Communications Workers of America, Newspaper Guild-CWA and the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA in response to the FCC's request for input on its quadrennial media ownership regulatory review and its move earlier this year to make one form of sharing agreement, joint sales agreements (JSAs), attributable as ownership interest.

While the unions concede the FCC needs to collect more data on sharing arrangements, in almost the same breath they say that the commission should have more than enough info to conclude that sharing arrangements of all stripes should be attributed, and even goes so far as to say it would be "arbitrary and capricious" for the FCC not to do so.

It is against the law (the Administrative Procedures Act) for federal agencies to regulate in an arbitrary and capricious manner, so the unions are bringing out the heavy rhetorical artillery.

"SSAs undermine the public’s interest in having access to a robust and diverse marketplace of ideas while destroying the jobs of professionals dedicated to informing the public," jobs the unions are sworn to protect and preserve.