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Posts Tagged ‘Ajit Pai’

FCC Votes to Restrict Joint Service Agreements

fcc logoThe FCC voted today to tighten media ownership rules by cracking down on joint service agreements, The Hill reports:

Under Monday’s 3-2 vote, a broadcast company that sells 15 percent or more of a station’s advertising will be considered as owning that station. “What we’re doing is closing off what has been a growing end-run around [the FCC’s ownership] rules,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said Monday.

“JSAs have been used, skirting the existing rules, to create market power that stacks the deck against small companies seeking to enter the broadcast business,” he said. The order allows broadcast stations using JSAs to apply for an exemption to the new ownership rules and requires the agency to reply to a station’s request within 90 days.

“We make it clear that JSAs are appropriate when they further those statutory goals of competition, diversity and localism,” Wheeler said. Republicans on the FCC slammed the agency’s move to constrain cooperation between broadcasters. Commissioner Ajit Pai called it “the most problematic item I’ve encountered” during his time at the agency.

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FCC Set to Allow More Foreign Investment in Local TV

FCC_304In its November meeting, the FCC said it will consider opening up local radio and TV stations in the US to more foreign investment.

Acting FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said in a statement, “Today, I circulated a declaratory ruling that clears the way for increased access to capital and potential new investors for the broadcast sector. Approval of this item will clarify the Commission’s intention to review, on a case-by-case basis, proposed transactions that would exceed the 25 percent benchmark that restricts foreign ownership in companies holding broadcast licenses.”

According to the Minority Media & Telecom Council, the proposal would help minority broadcasters. “Relaxation of the rules would provide new sources of capital for all broadcasters and, especially, minority broadcasters to grow their operations in this country.” The council also said it believes the move would open up American investment in foreign countries.

Commissioner Ajit Pai said he thinks the proposal modernizes “the agency’s approach to foreign investment in the broadcasting business.” Pai added, “Under our rules, a foreign company can indirectly hold more than a one-quarter stake in our nation’s largest wireless carriers, cable operators, cable programmers, and Internet backbone providers. Yet that company cannot own a similar interest in a single radio station in rural Kansas.”

FCC Proposes Change That May Affect Big Station Groups

FCC_304AdWeek reports the Federal Communications Commission has voted to start looking at changing the way it counts television stations against the total national ownership cap.

Right now, a station’s value is based on whether it’s VHF or UHF. According to the FCC, UHF stations “count less than TV stations on VHF channels.” Some argue station groups like Sinclair are taking advantage of that rule in their recent station acquisitions.

Commissioner Ajit Pai argued the change might put a stop to future deals.

First, Pai suggested that the discount should not be eliminated without reviewing the 39 percent ownership cap, which is as dated as the UHF discount and hasn’t been reviewed by the FCC since 2002. He also took issue with how the FCC proposed to grandfather the rule to Sept. 26, the same day the FCC proposed, but did not pass the rule.

“It’s not the law of the land now, but the grandfathered clause tells the marketplace to behave as if it’s already been eliminated, making the rulemaking process a reality before it’s voted,” Pai said. “It would dampen the market for broadcast stations and depress value.” Read more

Tribune Company Cleared to Exit Bankruptcy

Tribune Company, the Chicago-based owner of several newspapers and 23 television stations, announced on Friday it has received approval needed to end its four-year bankruptcy proceedings.

“This decision will enable the company to continue moving forward toward emergence from Chapter 11, a process we expect to complete over the course of the next several weeks,” Tribune CEO Eddy Hartenstein said in a statement.

Tribune has cross-ownership of television stations and newspapers in five markets — Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, South Florida and Hartford — under exceptions to a 1975 FCC rule. Federal regulators have granted Tribune a permanent waiver in Chicago and extended waivers in the other four markets, allowing the company to continue cross-ownership. Read more