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FCC

FCC Commissioner Wants to Give Small Business a Break in Proposed SSA Ban

FCC_304FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said she wants to protect small businesses from the agency’s attempt to ban station groups’ use of shared services agreements.

Clyburn told Bloomberg section 257 of the Communications Act of 1934 calls for the “FCC to identify and eliminate, through regulatory action, market entry barriers for entrepreneurs and other small businesses.”

She said “she wants ‘the ability to uphold those standards and those goals,’” and added, “This is an item that is still very fluid and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with my colleagues because we all in the end I believe want the same thing: to achieve balance.”

Clyburn today said there “will be a pathway for waivers if something does not neatly fit in the decision which we lay out.” The commission is trying to work out “ways that we can make that clearer and more efficient” before the vote. Read more

Juan Williams: FCC’s Proposed Ban on Shared Service Agreements Will Hurt Diversity

local newsroomFox News political analyst Juan Williams pens an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal arguing that the FCC’s proposed change in ownership regulations will hurt diversity in local broadcasting.

Williams writes that Armstrong Williams — who owns WWMB in Myrtle Beach and WEYI in Flint, Mich., both of which are operated by Sinclair Broadcast Group — will have “the financial rug pulled out from underneath him” if the FCC votes to ban sidecar agreements:

The black-owned stations simply lack the economic scale to get adequate advertising rates to pay their bills or even buy the station. For example, the bank that lent Mr. Williams $50 million to buy his stations did so with the understanding that he had the agreement with Sinclair, the much bigger firm.

In the last 10 years, the number of black-owned commercial television outlets licensed to black-owned companies has dropped to three from 21, the result of general market consolidation and some bankruptcies. Of the three remaining, Mr. Williams owns two and the third belongs to Tougaloo College, a historically black institution in Jackson, Miss.

A change in FCC rules would do more than damage Mr. Williams. His stations serve the areas of Flint, Mich., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., both of which have large minority populations. For many years Mr. Williams, a well-known media personality, has been actively involved in shaping local public-affairs programs that speak to minority concerns as a way to boost his own audience. Losing his TV stations means the communities also will lose broadcast content that reflects a minority perspective.

FCC Expected to Vote on Shared Service Agreement Ban

FCC_304Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to ask the FCC to vote on a ban of some shared-service agreements in the commissions next meeting.

The proposal is also expected to ban local stations from teaming up in retransmission negotiations.

Bloomberg reports Sinclair Broadcasting, along with several other station groups including Nexstar and LIN Media would be forced to give up some stations if the proposal passes.

Sinclair’s revenue last year from the type of arrangement the officials said Wheeler is most directly targeting amounted to $36 million, according to the filing. Sinclair reported $1.36 billion in revenue last year.

Sinclair fell 1.9 percent to $29.51 at 10:12 a.m. New York time. Nexstar lost 1.7 percent to $42.84, while Lin Media declined less than 1 percent to $23.09.

Wheeler needs to win a vote to pass the change at the FCC, where he is part of the three-member Democratic majority. The agency’s next meeting is March 31 in Washington. Read more

Two Los Angeles Stations Agree to Test Channel-Sharing

FCC_304Two Los Angeles broadcast stations will offer themselves up as subjects in an experiment to see if they can seamlessly share a broadcast channel in hopes of eventually freeing up spectrum for the wireless industry.

The two stations, public broadcaster KLCS and Spanish language station KJLA, will participate in the experiment thought up by the wireless communications industry trade association CTIA.

The object of the experiment is to jam two stations together on the same spectrum and hope viewers can’t see the difference at home. If it works it will mean more spectrum can be sold off to wireless carriers who say they need the added spectrum.

According to Wireless Week, “If the FCC approves the pilot, KLCS will host KJLA throughout the first quarter of 2014. At the conclusion of the test, CTIA and the TV stations will submit a report to the FCC on the viability of channel sharing.”

“We hope that the pilot program will provide broadcasters around the country with ‘real world’ data to evaluate the opportunity to channel share in the upcoming spectrum auction,” Alan Popkin, KLCS director of engineering, said in a statement.

Retransmission Fees and Blackouts Targeted in Two Separate Bills Before Congress

CableTVTwo bills introduced into Congress this week are taking aim at retransmission fees and blackouts.

The CHOICE or “Consumers Have Options in Choosing Entertainment” Act, introduced by California Representatives Anna Eshoo (D) and Zoe Lofgren (D), would ask the FCC to force interim carriage of a TV station during a retrans negotiation impasse and would allow consumers to opt out of paying for TV stations that elect retransmission consent. You can read all five provisions after the jump.

The Next Generation Television Marketplace Act, re-introduced by Rep. Steve Scalise (R) is “a comprehensive video reform bill that repeals outdated laws including compulsory copyright licenses, eliminates various mandates on private sector companies and consumers, and removes certain FCC broadcast and media ownership rules.” Read more

GOP Lawmakers Call FCC Study Attempt to Make FCC ‘News Police’

FCC_304An FCC study looking into how news stories are chosen and reported has caught the eye of  Republican members of the Commerce Committee who fear it may be an attempt to revive the Fairness Doctrine.

The 16 lawmakers told the commission in a letter that by looking into how how editorial decisions are made by local news outlets, the FCC is threatening the First Amendment.

In the letter, Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and 15 other lawmakers asked the FCC to stop the study saying, “It is wrong, it is unconstitutional, and we urge you to put a stop to this most recent attempt to engage the FCC as the ‘news police.”

The study, called the “Multi-Market Study of Critical Needs” plans to look at how broadcast, print, radio and internet news stories are selected, prioritized and produced. On its website, the FCC said the study looks at the information needs of the American public, with “special emphasis on vulnerable/disadvantaged populations.”

The leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee along with every Republican member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee also wrote, “The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the beacon of freedom that makes the United States unique among the world’s nations.  We urge you to take immediate steps to suspend this effort and find ways that are consistent with the Communications Act and the Constitution to serve the commission’s statutory responsibilities.”

The Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to give equal time to both sides of  present controversial issues of public importance in an honest, equitable and balanced way, exposing viewers to a diversity of viewpoints, was officially taken off the books in 2011.

[AdWeek]

FCC Challenging Part of Sinclair’s Allbritton Buy

FCC_304The FCC is telling Sinclair Broadcast Group that part of its $985 million purchase of Allbritton Communications will violate ownership rules.

TVNewsCheck reported Friday, FCC Video Division chief Barbara Kreisman told Sinclair the way it has structured its deal to buy Allbritton’s ABC affiliates in Charleston, SC, Birmingham, AL, and Harrisburg, PA, would not afford it the grandfathered protection the station group had previously enjoyed, which allowed it to operate multiple stations in a single market.

Earlier, The American Cable Association wrote “Sinclair, fully aware that the FCC’s rules would not permit its outright ownership of these Charleston and Harrisburg stations, is also proposing to assign its own stations in these markets to third parties – so-called sidecar companies – while continuing to provide many “support services” to the stations through a variety of sharing agreements. ” Read more

ACA Asks FCC to Change How it Grants Licenses, Supports SSA Study

aca_304The American Cable Association is asking FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to change the way the FCC approves station licenses.

In its letter, the ACA asked the FCC to review station deals in front of the entire commission or “en banc,” when the deal involves a shared service agreement rather than letting the Media Bureau handle it. Said the ACA, “Only by doing so can the Commission ensure that the public values of competition, localism and diversity are fully served by its reviews of transactions involving U.S. broadcast licenses.”

>RELATED: Sinclair Hires Former FCC Media Bureau Adviser for Washington Office

In past filings with the FCC, the ACA has voiced its concern that companies using service agreements to own multiple stations in a single market could band together to squeeze more retransmission money out of cable operators.

The ACA also voiced its support of Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) who recently asked the commission to hold off on granting anymore licenses until the effect of shared and joint service agreements can be studied. Read more

Senator Asks FCC to Consider Effects of Service Agreements Before Approving Deals

FCC_304Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV has asked FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to delay ruling on upcoming station group mergers until the Government Accountability Office can complete its report on shared service agreements.

The request covers recent Sinclair and Nexstar purchases as well as the merger between Gannett and Belo.

TVNewsCheck reports the Democratic senator from West Virginia wrote, “Given the current questions about the impact of SSAs on the broadcast landscape 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.” Read more

TWC and American Cable Association Ask FCC to Stop Mission’s Binghamton Station Buy

FCC_304Time Warner Cable and the American Cable Association are asking the FCC to deny Mission Broadcasting’s purchase of two Stainless Broadcasting stations in the Binghamton, NY, market.

In the petition, the two point out the deal, through sharing agreements with Mission, would essentially give Nexstar Broadcasting control of three of the four stations affiliated with major networks in that market.

As in similar petitions, the ACA is primarily looking to prevent station groups from gaining leverage when it comes to renegotiating retransmission deals and points a finger directly at Nexstar CEO Perry Sook for saying so, “Indeed, Nexstar’s CEO has acknowledged that a central rationale for the Mission-Stainless transaction is to use the leverage afforded by the combination of top-ranked stations in Binghamton to garner increased retransmission consent fees.” Read more

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