FCC Makes It Tough To Get JSA Waivers

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."

In its March 31 ruling giving broadcasters two years to unwind joint sales agreements used to get around the long-standing ban against owning two stations in small and medium markets, the FCC said it would consider requests for waivers. But the text of the ruling, released yesterday, erects a high bar for broadcasters seeking such waivers.

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.

In evaluating requests, the FCC says it wants to see “(i)specific facts that show a lack of incentive or ability for the broker station to influence the brokered station’s programming or operations, and (ii) specific facts that demonstrate that the brokered station has the incentive and ability to maintain independent operations and programming decisions that are not influenced by the broker station and the incentive and ability to exclude the broker station from exerting influence over programming and operations. “

The FCC says that a waiver request  that is “limited in scope (i.e., percentage of the station’s advertising sales) and duration so as to minimize or eliminate any influence on operations or programming is more likely to be successful than an open-ended request.”

The FCC says that it “will take into account the totality of the circumstances in order to assess whether strict compliance with the rule is inconsistent with the public interest.”

The FCC also says that it will consider waiver requests on “an expedited basis,” recognizing that some requests will come in the context of larger station deals that are time sensitive. It promised to “complete their review within 90 days of the record closing on such waiver petitions provided there are no circumstances requiring additional time for review.”

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NAB SVP of Communications Ann Marie Cumming commented on the commission’s action: “NAB is currently reviewing the order with particular focus on details surrounding the waiver process. With the FCC now seeking to undo JSAs which it had previously approved, we believe there should be ample opportunities for broadcasters to pursue waivers that preserve the public services these station partnerships have made possible in local communities across the country.”

Here is a link to the text. The discussion of JSAs begins at paragraph 340.


Comments (5)

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Patrick Paolini says:

April 16, 2014 at 9:12 am

I wonder if the FCC will be happy when these broadcasters simply smile and walk away. Most the the JSA’d stations simply will not be able to survive on their own. Broadcast owners are NOT going to be forced to sell them at a loss (and if they somehow are, how will that stations survive?). So, when these big broadcast groups start simply CLOSING their JSA’d stations, inventory in these markets will tighten up – resulting in a WIN for the broadcasters, and a loss for all the people the FCC thinks will somehow benefit. Oh, also, there will be a loss of jobs, and less competition… THAT you’ll be able to thank the FCC for. Radio works in the duopoly, triopoly, many stations owned by a single owner – no one complains. CABLE – basically sells hundreds of stations as a monopoly, no one complains, broadcast stations, which provide entertainment and news to the public for free – THAT is the medium the gov’t needs to squeeze. WOW – when will someone wake up to the system being screwed up?

    Scott Cote says:

    April 16, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Remarkably well said. Thanks….

    Ellen Samrock says:

    April 16, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Believe me, broadcasters will find a legal workaround. They’re survivors–they have to be when dealing with a bureaucracy like the FCC, which knows little to nothing about the broadcasting business. Besides, owners are not going to walk away after spending billions acquiring and upgrading their stations. It would be insane for them to do that. What we are seeing is broadcasters hardening their resolve NOT to work with the government where they voluntarily don’t have to. “No newsroom monitoring, no personal visits to hard sell the incentive auction.”

Joe Jaime says:

April 16, 2014 at 10:20 am

This should keep the FCC lawyers busy for awhile

Maria Black says:

April 16, 2014 at 10:27 am

This really looks like their rules for getting a closed captioning exemption waiver. “prove to us you aren’t being naughty, and we’ll be nice….maybe.”


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