Wheeler Collects Support From Diversity Groups, Hill for JSA Proposal

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler collected plaudits from diversity groups and Hill Democrats Thursday for his decision to make joint sales agreements over 15% of a station's ad sales attributable under the FCC's ownership rules and prohibit coordinated retransmission consent among two separately owned stations in a market if they were among the top four.

"While we look forward to examining all items related to today's announcements once they are released by the Commission, we are pleased that Chairman Wheeler has heeded the advice of NHMC and many others and put the final nail in the coffin of proposals advanced by former Chairman Genachowski that would have favored increased media consolidation at the expense of a greater diversity of voices," said the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

Then-chairman Julius Genachowski had proposed in his 2010 quadrennial media ownership review item to loosen some crossownership rules. But new FCC chairman Tom Wheeler scrapped that proposal, suggesting to a media activist workshop he had arrived in time to stop further deregulation.

NHMC also said it hoped the announcement was a "tacit" signal that the FCC knows it has to collect more info on the impact of its rules on diversity.

If so, it won't be via the Critical Information Needs (CIN) study, that Wheeler pulled the plug on last week after criticism of proposed questions to journalists about what they cover and why.

NHMC said it was "disheartened" the study had been pulled, but said the FCC needed to immediately figure out how it was going to collect the necessary data.

Senate Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) thanked Wheeler for proposals he said addressed many of his and others' concerns about "the misuse of joint sales agreements and shared services agreements by broadcasters."

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said that Wheeler's proposals showed she and he were on the same page.

“Congress has long entrusted the FCC with upholding the core values of competition, localism and diversity in the media marketplace. With unprecedented consolidation of local broadcast TV stations and ever-increasing cable prices, I’m pleased Chairman Wheeler shares my view that our retransmission consent regime is broken and in need of reform."

“A true manifestation of a vibrant democracy are many voices to the many—not fewer. Chairman Wheeler’s proposal aims to protect this sacrosanct ideal and ensures greater competition across the media landscape.”

The Minority Media & Telecommunications Council said it supported the FCC's JSA decision, as well as his decision to propose requiring shared services agreements to be reported to the FCC. "The chairman’s announcement wisely leaves the door open for those instances in which the only way to save a struggling television station is with a 'sidecar' JSA or SSA arrangement," said MMTC. "The Commission should also consider the very thoughtful proposal of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) to authorize temporary JSAs and SSAs when used as incubators of minority and women entrepreneurs."

The chairman also plans to provide a waiver process through which sharing arrangements that serve the public interest can be allowed.

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.