Only two weeks ago, we were writing about the FCC’s consideration of TV Joint Sales and Shared Service Agreements (or “side-car arrangements” as some have called them) as being an issue that was just being reviewed at the FCC by the new Chairman and his staff. Now, according to press reports (including this one), the exploration has quickly moved much further – so far that we apparently will see FCC action in the very near future on these very controversial subjects. The rumors suggest that the FCC is ready to resolve many of the issues in the current Quadrennial Review of its multiple ownership rules (see our summary of the issues initially raised in that proceeding here) at its March open meeting. According to these rumors, the FCC will prohibit Joint Sales Agreements for television stations in situations where the two stations involved cannot be commonly owned under the FCC’s multiple ownership rules, and at the same time do nothing to relax the broadcast- newspaper cross-ownership restrictions. This is much the same result on JSAs that was rumored in December 2012, but a harsher result on the cross-ownership issue than the previous FCC Chair was rumored to be ready to take. In 2012, the proceeding was put on hold to take more comments on the effect of a change in the cross-interest policy on minority ownership (see our article here), and it has sat there since. This week’s rumors suggest that, as part of the same action (or through a simultaneous action), the FCC will ask about the public interest benefits and harms of Shared Services Agreements in the TV industry.
For investors in television companies and the general public, these rumored actions raise many questions. How can the FCC take such a decision on the JSA/SSA issue when such agreements have become an integral part of the TV business over the last few years? What is the difference between a JSA and an SSA? How can the FCC not recognize that newspapers are in difficult economic times, and some degree of consolidation may well help these economics? Does the FCC recognize that the media landscape in broadcasting has changed dramatically in the last few years?
Continue Reading TV Shared Service and Joint Sales Agreements Back in the News – Is the FCC Poised to Act Soon, and To Also Reject Relaxation of Broadcast-Newspaper Cross-Ownership?