The current round of station consolidation has produced six more Big Four affiliate duopolies and one Big Four triopoly (Syracuse, N.Y.) that give broadcasters undue leverage in retrans negotiations with cable operators and ultimately drive up cable subscriber fees, says the American Cable Association.
The word I’m getting out of the Washington is that the FCC may prohibit the formation of new virtual duopolies through joint sales agreements and give broadcasters two years to unwind existing ones. That’s the wrong way to go. It should be relaxing the rules to allow more combos or at the very least grandfathering the existing ones.
As he has in at least three other markets, Henson will enter into a shared services agreement with Raycom Media so that Raycom can run Toledo, Ohio, Fox affiliate WUPW in tandem with its CBS affil WTOL.
The FCC will soon launch a rulemaking that could very well lead next year to a prohibition against so-called virtual duopolies or at least rules that make them more difficult to put together. So, if you’re thinking about doubling up in your market through shared services agreements and the like, you ought to act now. This is no time for proscrastination.
Broadcasters are trying to preserve the arrangements that they say let financially troubled stations benefit from economies of scale while still maintaining separate ownership. An NAB delegation met last week with key FCC advisers to press the case. They are up against a coalition of industry watchdog groups, labor unions, cable and satellite providers and some congressional Democrats who say the deals weaken a market’s diversity of voices. “It is an outright evasion of the TV duopoly rule,” says Media Access Project’s Andrew Schwartzman, The goal of these agreements, he claims, “is to do what the duopoly rules prohibit.”