News Ticker

Senate commerce to vote on bill to grandfather JSAs

Broadcasters in joint sales agreements may get some relief from a Federal Communications Commission rule passed last year that would force many TV stations to unwind deals that were previously approved by the agency.

On Thursday, the Senate commerce committee is expected to vote on a bill that would grandfather existing JSAs already in place when the FCC voted along party lines in March 2014 to attribute ownership limitations to any JSA where one station sells more than 15 percent of the advertising time of another station in the same market.

Most of the JSAs are in smaller markets where stations don’t have big-market resources, helping many TV stations to survive and provide local news.

“Joint Sales Agreements in Missouri and across the country have helped save TV stations from going dark, increased program diversity, and enabled local news programming for many TV broadcasters,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who introduced the bill. “For instance, a JSA enabled a Joplin, Missouri station to upgrade its Doppler radar system, which helped save lives during the devastating tornado of 2011. This bipartisan bill would protect TV broadcasters with pre-existing JSAs from the FCC’s controversial rule that could otherwise prevent citizens in rural areas from getting their news.”

The bill has bipartisan support from seven co-sponsors including Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

Over in the House, lawmakers took a different approach when the appropriations committee passed a rider on a budget bill to stop the FCC’s order.