/// FCC Votes Along Party Lines to Limit TV Joint Sales Deals
It’s a good thing the FCC started out with three items that all five commissioners could agree upon, because that was the end of the harmony at Monday’s meeting. Over strong objections from both Republican commissioners, the FCC voted 3-2 to make it harder for a TV station to sell advertising time for another in the same market. The Republican commissioners, Ajit Pai and Mike O’Rielly, also lambasted the agency for rolling up the agency’s tardy completion of its 2010 quadrennial review of media ownership rules into the 2014 review, putting off any recommendations for changes until June 30, 2016. As Pai put it, “it’s neither quadrennial nor a review.” The partisan and contentious outcome was not unexpected , chilling the stock price of groups that have joint sales agreements, such as Sinclair Broadcast Group, Nexstar Broadcasting, and LIN Media. In a long speech, Pai tore into the commission’s move, providing numerous examples where JSAs had aided diversity and localism. “The item does not cite a single advertiser that has complained about a JSA. It relies on the theory that [a] JSA allows one station to exert undue influence over the other. The item does not contain a single example,” Pai said. But FCC chairman Tom Wheeler stuck to his guns that JSA’s were nothing but an end-run around the agency’s current ownership rules. He noted that the commission would offer a 90-day waiver request process to consider JSAs that furthered the commission’s goals of competition, localism and diversity. “JSAs have been used to skirt existing rules to create market power that stacks the deck against small companies seeking to enter the broadcast business,” Wheeler said.