Senator Jay Rockefeller asks the FCC to "collect all information necessary to understand the scope and effect" of any SSAs included in pending station sales.
Rockefeller Turns Up Heat On Virtual Duops
U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV on Monday sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler which calls on the agency to take a close look at the use of shared services agreements (SSAs) in proposed sales and mergers of television stations. In particular, Rockefeller is asking the agency to collect the information necessary to understand the effect of SSAs on competition and consumers.
SSAs enable broadcasters to operate and profit from more stations in markets than they are allowed to own under local FCC ownership limits. Such combos are known as virtual duopolies or virtual triopolies.
Rockefeller suggests that the FCC consider waiting to approve any pending sales and mergers until a GAO report he requested on the increasing use and impact of SSAs and other broadcaster coordination arrangements is issued.
“Given the current questions about the impact of SSAs on the broadcast landscape,” Rockefeller wrote, “the FCC should approach each of the pending transactions cautiously. While I am not taking a position on any particular transaction, I believe that the FCC should collect all information necessary to understand the scope and effect of the SSAs envisioned by the deals. Such information is also critical to gaining a more thorough understanding of the impact these deals could have on the larger video marketplace and consumers.”
The letter, the senator’s office says, “builds on Rockefeller’s commitment to promoting diversity, localism, and the public interest in broadcast television.”
In May, Rockefeller asked GAO to examine the increasing use and impact of SSAs and other broadcaster coordination arrangements. He requested this report to gain a more thorough understanding of the impact these SSAs could have on the larger video marketplace and consumers.
In an interview with TVNewsCheck two weeks ago, Wheeler said broadcast ownership issues were not high on his list of priorities. He said he is aware of the proposal by fomer FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to bar broadcasters from using joint sales agreements and SSAs to circumvent ownership caps.
Genachowski tabled the proposal, apparently because he couldn’t get sufficient support from his fellow commissioners.
“I’ve got to look at it,” Wheeler said. “It’s something that is worthy of me getting further involved in, but I must say that in the first two weeks (on the job at the FCC), I haven’t.”