Court Rules FCC Can’t Ban JSAs Until it Does Its Homework

By Kevin Eck 

A U.S. Court of Appeals told the FCC it can’t ban joint service agreements “unless it has, within the previous four years, fulfilled its obligation to review that rule and determine whether it is in the public interest. Here the commission put the cart before the horse.”

TVNewsCheck reports the court left the door open for a JSA ban if the FCC can find the ban would be in the public interest, which it can only be done if the commission completes its review.

“Although federal law commands the commission to conduct a review of its rules every four years,” said the court. “The 2006 cycle is the last one it has finished; the 2010 and 2014 reviews remain open.”

“When the Commission adopted this arbitrary rule two years ago, I warned that any attempt to change our treatment of joint sales agreements without also completing our statutorily mandated review of the local television ownership rule would violate the law,” said FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai. “And today, a unanimous Third Circuit panel said precisely the same thing. The court’s decision will help broadcasters continue to serve the public interest—particularly in smaller media markets, where joint sales agreements are critical to the survival of television stations and their ability to provide viewers with local news.”

“While we don’t have all of the details just yet, we view this as a very positive step for the broadcast industry — especially for Nexstar Broadcasting Group and Sinclair Broadcast Group, who have the greatest number of JSAs among the peer group,” said Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker.