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Chairman Response Regarding Joint Sales Agreements

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Released: August 22, 2014
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FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS

COMMISSION

WASHINGTON

O

F FI C E

OF

July 22, 2014

T H E CHAIRMAN

The Honorable Mary Landrieu

United States Senate

328 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Landrieu:

Thank you for your letter expressing concerns regarding the Commission's March 31,

2014, action to attribute certain Joint Sales Agreements (JSAs) between television stations. I

appreciate the opportunity to provide you with some additional context for the decision.

Our action should not have been a surprise to the industry. Stations have been on notice

of potential regulatory action on JSAs since 2004 when the Coqunission first started a

proceeding proposing to attribute JSAs where one station sells 15 percent or more of the weekly

advertising time on behalf of another station in the same market. The concern then- as it is

today- was that the use of such JSAs provides the incentive and potential to unduly influence

the core operating functions of the brokered station, including programming decisions. In

fmalizing our decision, we sought additional comment in the 2010 Quadrennial Review on these

issues and also considered the evidence from our license transfer application process, where we

have reviewed an increasing number of JSAs in recent years. These JSAs have generally

involved the sale of 100 percent of the advertising time of the brokered station in conjunction

with a number of other operational and fmancial arrangements between the stations. It is also

clear that in many instances such arrangements reduce or homogenize local news.

The existing agreements between stations cited in your letter are the result of a business

practice that evolved to circumvent the Commission's local TV ownership rules that promote

competition and viewpoint diversity by restricting the common-ownership of more than one

station in small and medium-sized markets. Our action was necessary to close this loophole in

the rules and enforce the restrictions we have on the books. The adoption of the new JSA

attribution rules will require adjustment for some stations in the industry, which is why we

allowed a two-year period for stations to come into compliance from the effective date of the

rules.

I do recognize that there could be some exceptions where attributing a JSA for purposes

of our ownership rules could be in the public interest, which is why we adopted an expedited

waiver process. I believe that adopting the rule with a waiver process will better protect

competition, localism, and diversity than merely grandfathering existing agreements. I agree

with you that the Commission should- and will- look to all of the facts presented in a waiver

request, including the impact of the JSA on the ability of the brokered station to continue to serve

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The Honorable Maria Landrieu

their communities. I encourage any station that believes its existing JSA is in the public interest

to file a waiver request early in this period.

For stations that have pending license transfer applications that involve JSAs, Shared

Services Agreements (SSAs), and other fmancial agreements, the Media Bureau is actively

working with the parties to discuss possible amendments to those applications, where necessary.

I strongly support the close scrutiny that the Bureau must apply to ensure that these proposed

agreements do not result in undue influence or control. Since mid-March, the Bureau has

granted 50 full-power television assignment and transfer of control applications, which represent

20 separate transactions. The Bureau staff will continue to process other pending applications.

I hope this information is helpful.

~Y;~t

Tom Wheeler

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