Thursday, March 20, 2014

FCC's Clyburn Urges 'Balanced' Approach To Ownership Rules

The Federal Communications Commission should seek a “balanced” approach to its plans to tighten broadcast TV ownership rules in order to help small broadcast owners, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn told reporters March 18, according to

The FCC is planning to vote March 31 on an order that seeks to adjust the agency's media attribution rules to take into account the use of some joint sales agreements (JSAs) and shared services agreements (SSAs) among broadcast TV stations. JSAs and SSAs, which combine advertising and resources between TV stations that compete in the same market, are sometimes used to circumvent the commission's media ownership rules.

Some critics of the FCC's forthcoming media ownership rulemaking argue that restricting the use of JSAs and SSAs could harm minority media ownership and other public interest goals.

“There are abuses that need to be addressed, but there are also opportunities we want to nurture and support,” Clyburn said at an event hosted by the Free State Foundation. “What you'll see on the March 31st agenda is a pathway towards a balanced process that will take into account both goals.”

Mignon Clyburn
Clyburn, a Democrat who served as the first African American FCC chairwoman in the interim period before FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was appointed and confirmed. She plays a critical role in Wheeler's effort to adjust media ownership rules. The two Republicans on the five person commission have voiced their opposition to the proposal and a vote by Clyburn against the rulemaking would sink the order.

Clyburn declined to say how she planned to vote on the order.

The FCC currently prohibits broadcast companies from owning two or more full power television stations in the same local market. If the rule change is approved an owner of one broadcast station in a market that sells 15 percent or more of the advertising time for another competing station in the same market will be considered to have an ownership interest in that station.

The FCC will provide companies who exceed current ownership restrictions two years to unwind their relationships or they may seek a waiver from the new rules.

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