FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai on a proposal to tighten up on the use of joint sales agreements and shared services agreements: "If the FCC effectively prohibits these agreements, fewer stations in small-town America will offer news programming, and they will invest less in newsgathering. And the economics suggest that there likely will be fewer television stations, period."
FCC’s Pai: JSAs, SSAs Vital To TV’s Survival
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said the agency is going about reforming its local TV ownership rules all wrong.
Instead of figuring out how to relax the rules, the Republican regulator said in a speech at a Media Institute luncheon Thursday, the FCC is debating whether to tighten them by counting stations operated under joint sales and shared services agreements as owned stations under the current ownership caps.
“I have no doubt that those advancing this proposal have the best of intentions,” he said. “But if their efforts succeed, I fear that the effects will be quite negative, especially in smaller markets.
“As broadcasters’ share of the advertising market has shrunk in the digital age, television stations must be able to enter into innovative arrangements in order to operate efficiently. JSAs and SSAs, for example, allow stations to save costs and to provide the services that we should want television broadcasters to offer.”
The crackdown on JSAs and SSAs is part of a Media Bureau proposal that has the backing of Chairman Julius Genachowski and his two fellow Democrats on the commission.
Pai cited examples of so-called virtual duopolies created through JSAs and SSAs in Wichita, Kan. (DMA 66), and Fort Smith, Ark. (DMA 101), that have benefited broadcasters and their viewers.
“For stations in markets like these, the choice isn’t between JSAs or having both television stations operate independent news departments.
“Rather, the real choice is between JSAs and having, at most, one television station continue to provide news programming while the other does not.
“If the FCC effectively prohibits these agreements, fewer stations in small-town America will offer news programming, and they will invest less in newsgathering. And the economics suggest that there likely will be fewer television stations, period.”
“Losing these stations would be terrible for American media consumers. For unlike some, I don’t see broadcasting as a faded relic of the past. Broadcast television remains a critical part of the media landscape.”