Wells Fargo securities analyst Marci Ryvicker says FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s much anticipated relaxation of the local ownership rules may happen at the FCC’s next open meeting and it might go so far as to allow Big Four duopolies in every market. The result: “a stronger industry overall.”
Despite the FCC’s local ownership limits and its crackdown on joint sales agreements, the mega-station group has emerged with the market’s ABC and Fox affiliations and a JSA with the CW outlet.
Many in Congress would no doubt like to stick it to FCC chief Tom Wheeler for some of his bold moves. Now they have a chance. Four senators have introduced a bill that would grandfather existing JSAs. Passage would give a nice boost to broadcasters who do nothing but provide a superior news and entertainment TV service to the American public free of charge. And it would show that Congress still has some say in FCC affairs. Addendum: The NAB is going to ask the FCC to give broadcasters more time to move their channels during the incentive auction repack. The FCC should grant it because it just can’t be done in 39 months.
The FCC’s latest review of its ownership rules contains a couple of “tentative” findings pertaining to Big Four affiliations that could go a long way in shaping the industry and even determining how much broadcasters have to pay in reverse comp. The first would bar broadcasters from acquiring a second Big Four affiliate in a market via an affiliation swap as Tribune did in Indianapolis. The other would allow dual Big Four affiliations through the use of multicasting channels.
Over the past few weeks, we have begun to see how the FCC’s decision in March to curtail the use of joint sales and shared services agreements is impacting the business.Three groups have proposal three different plans to come into compliance with the new rules. Of them, Nexstar’s arrangement with Pluria Marshall is the potential win-win.
Broadcasters must show that the JSA and any “related agreements or interests” do not provide them “with the opportunity, ability and incentive to exert significant influence over the programming or operations of the brokered station,” the FCC says. It adds that it will consider waiver requests on “an expedited basis.”