FCC Commissioner Wants to Give Small Business a Break in Proposed SSA Ban

By Kevin Eck 

FCC_304FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said she wants to protect small businesses from the agency’s attempt to ban station groups’ use of shared services agreements.

Clyburn told Bloomberg section 257 of the Communications Act of 1934 calls for the “FCC to identify and eliminate, through regulatory action, market entry barriers for entrepreneurs and other small businesses.”

She said “she wants ‘the ability to uphold those standards and those goals,’” and added, “This is an item that is still very fluid and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with my colleagues because we all in the end I believe want the same thing: to achieve balance.”

Clyburn today said there “will be a pathway for waivers if something does not neatly fit in the decision which we lay out.” The commission is trying to work out “ways that we can make that clearer and more efficient” before the vote.

Broadcasters say sharing can help fund TV coverage of local events. The arrangements “in fact, greatly foster localism and diversity,” Gordon Smith, president of the National Association of Broadcasters, told Clyburn in a March 12 meeting, according to a filing.

“The chairman is proposing to use a sledgehammer where a scalpel, if anything, is far more appropriate” to address “purported bad actors,” Clyburn was told by Smith and Rick Kaplan, executive vice president with the Washington-based trade group, according to the filing. Kaplan is a former aide to Clyburn.

The number of full-power commercial TV stations licensed to black owners has dropped in the past decade from 21 to three, of which two are operated as part of sharing arrangements, James Winston, executive director of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, a Washington-based trade group, told Clyburn in a Feb. 26 meeting, according to a disclosure filing.

The FCC should consider on a case-by-case basis whether shared arrangements “have the potential to promote diversity of ownership,” Winston said.