Broadcasters attack ‘onerous’ ad rules

Broadcasters aren’t pulling any punches in their legal fight against Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations mean to stop them from colluding on advertising sales.

“Singling out television JSAs [joint sales agreements] for such onerous treatment on a record too thin, by the commission’s own lights, to support reasoned policymaking in the same arena is the essence of arbitrary and capricious decision-making,” the National Association of Broadcasters told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in a brief on Monday. “This Court should vacate the JSA Rule and the unjustified broadcast ownership rules.”

More than a year ago, the broadcaster group sued the FCC over its decision to impose new limits on broadcast companies that prevent them from coordinating their advertising buys. 

On a party-line vote last March, the five-member FCC declared that any broadcaster that shares at least 15 percent of their advertising sales resources with another company would effectively be owned by that company. Because the FCC bans a single company from owning more than one of the top four broadcast stations in a market, the rule change effectively prohibited broadcast companies from pooling their resources on advertising — a previously relatively common practice. 

Critics called the advertising deals a legal loophole that broadcasters had used to evade the FCC’s media ownership restrictions and consolidate local media markets.

But broadcasters and GOP opponents of the FCC move said that it would harm small broadcast stations. Since the rules were announced, some companies have pulled stations off the air. 

Critics also slammed the FCC’s decision to write new rules before completing a long overdue 2010 review of its media ownership rules, which was eventually included in an analysis released last year.

“By rolling the unfinished 2010 review into the 2014 proceeding without making any decisions about the necessity of the rules, much less an assessment of the present state of competition, the Commission evaded its basic obligations under [the law] and unlawfully retained the rules,” broadcasters said in their new brief.

Tags Federal Communications Commission Joint Sales Agreements National Association of Broadcasters
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