The agenda is out, and the FCC’s likely action on their Quadrennial Review of the multiple ownership rules now seems to be much clearer. And the decision seems likely to follow the rumors circulating in Washington for weeks (about which we have written here and here), with new regulatory wrinkles added to those previously suggested. According to a blog post by the FCC Chairman, the plans are for the FCC to attribute JSAs where one TV broadcaster sells more than 15% of the ad time on another station in its market (meaning that such a JSA is only permissible if the stations can be commonly owned). In addition, the Commission will prohibit TV non-commonly owned TV stations from jointly negotiating retransmission consent agreements with cable and satellite TV providers. A further review of Shared Services Agreement is apparently in the works as well. The Commission will apparently do nothing about the FCC’s cross-ownership rules, leaving in place rules prohibiting joint newspaper-broadcast cross ownership and even radio-TV cross-ownership rules, asking for comments on a proposal to actually retain those rules in a new Quadrennial Review that it will start on March 31.
Retransmission consent is also on the agenda. The agenda indicates that not only will the Commission ban joint negotiation of retransmission consent fees by stations involved in a JSA, but it will seek more information on other issues involved in the relationship between broadcasters and MVPDs (cable and satellite TV providers). Specifically, the Commission will look at whether to repeal the network nonduplication and syndicated exclusivity rules which prohibit MVPDs from importing TV signals that infringe on the exclusive rights held by a local station to network and syndicated programming. Were these rules to be abolished, to the extent that retransmission agreements permit it, distant signals might be imported by an MVPD when the MVPD and local television station were having a retransmission dispute, lessening the leverage of the local station from its ability to withhold its programming. Continue Reading