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FCC

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

Media General Asks FCC to Take Sides in Retrans Negotiations with DISH Network

media general_dishThe growing animosity between DISH Network and Media General is now being played out in front of the FCC after Media General filed its own complaint with the Commission saying DISH is abusing the process in its battle over retransmission fees.

DISH Network filed a complaint with the FCC on October 18, asking the FCC to force Media General to negotiate in good faith after negotiations with the station group that started on October 1 stalled. DISH claimed Media General didn’t talk to them for 11 days.

Media General has now filed its own complaint with FCC asking the Commission to dismiss DISH’s complaint and “refer DISH to the Enforcement Bureau for consideration of the appropriate actions for DISH’s abuse of the Commission’s processes and for its misrepresentations to and lack of candor before the Commission.” Media General is also asking DISH to pay its attorney’s fees for responding to what they call a frivolous complaint.

The blackout affects DISH customers in 17 markets including Columbus, OH, Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL, and Hattiesburg, MS.

[TVNewsCheck]

FCC Fines Kentucky Station $39K for Using EAS Tone in Commercial

FCC_304The FCC is putting its foot down in response to what it says is an increase in the use of false emergency alert system tones used on air.

Yesterday, the commission announced it took action against both Turner Broadcasting and Bowling Green, KY, NBC and CBS duopoly WNKY “for apparent misuse of the actual Emergency Alert System (EAS) tones or close simulations of those sounds.” It also issued an Enforcement Advisory to stop the use of EAS alerts to grab attention in commercials or shows when there is no emergency.

“Today’s enforcement action sends a strong message: the FCC will not tolerate misuse or abuse of the Emergency Alert System,” said Enforcement Bureau acting chief Robert H. Ratcliffe. “It is inexcusable to trivialize the sounds specifically used to notify viewers of the dangers of an incoming tornado or to alert them to be on the lookout for a kidnapped child, merely to advertise a talk show or a clothing store. This activity not only undermines the very purpose o f a unique set of emergency alert signals, but is a clear violation of the law.” Read more

American Cable Association Petitions FCC Over Sinclair’s Latest Purchase

aca_logo_croppedThe American Cable Association has filed a petition asking the FCC to either restrict or deny Sinclair Broadcast Group’s purchase of New Age Media’s television stations.

The ACA is taking a different stance than other organizations who oppose Sinclair’s buying spree. The ACA is making it primarily about money. They’re concerned Sinclair could leverage its sidecar agreements and gang up on local cable providers to squeeze more money out of them rather than negotiate station by station.

In its FCC filing, the organization said, “ACA is concerned about the effect of the transaction on two markets where the transaction would result in Sinclair entering into agreements that allow it to coordinate the negotiation of retransmission consent agreements for two top-four rated Big Four television stations.” Read more

FCC Gives Denali Media OK to Buy Alaska Stations Over Local Broadcasters Objections

GCI_logo_-_AgencyDenali Media has been given the go-ahead from the FCC to buy three Alaska TV stations despite opposition from four Alaskan station groups.

According to one of the stations involved, Denali, a subsidiary of Alaska’s cable giant General Communications, Inc., is expected to complete its purchase of Anchorage CBS affiliate KTVA, Sitka NBC affiliate KSCT and Juneau NBC affiliate KATH within days.

The Alaska Dispatch reports, Andy MacLeod, general manager for Anchorage NBC affiliate KTUU one of the stations fighting the sale, told employees in an email following the ruling, “We’re disappointed in the FCC ruling and we, along with the other Alaska broadcasters, will assess our legal options moving forward.”

A main concern for the media entities that wanted to block GCI/Denali was the concept of a dual monopoly. GCI has what some view as a near-monopoly on the distribution of news, information and entertainment through its statewide cable systems. Jumping in now as a producer of that programming in the form of Denali Media stands to make GCI even more dominant as a common owner of both a cable system and broadcast television stations. The fear of what that would look like if GCI was ruthlessly anticompetitive motivated many Alaska broadcasters to seek protection from the potential threat through regulatory restrictions. Read more

Tom Wheeler Confirmed as Head of FCC

wheeler_usaTom Wheeler has been confirmed by the Senate as FCC Chairman.

According to The New York Times, “The vote came after Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, lifted a hold earlier in the day on the nomination of Tom Wheeler as chairman, with Mr. Cruz saying he had received assurances from him that the commission would not immediately pursue changes for political advertising on television.”

Along with Wheeler’s confirmation, the Senate OK’d President Obama’s nomination of Michael O’Reilly as FCC commissioner. The two seats had been vacant since previous chairman Julius Genachowski and commissioner Robert McDowell both stepped down in March.

Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn congratulated the two on their confirmation, “The FCC family enthusiastically welcomes both Tom and Michael. I look forward to working with them, along with my current colleagues at the Commission, to further communications policies that advance the public interest, bolster competition, empower consumers, and spur new waves of innovation that grow our economy and create jobs.”

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.”

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