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Senator Blunt, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Protect Local TV Broadcasters From Controversial FCC Rule

May 04, 2015

WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) today introduced bipartisan legislation to protect local television broadcasters with Joint Sales Agreements (JSAs) that were approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) before its controversial rule was issued on March 31, 2014. U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), and Tim Scott (S.C.) joined Blunt as original co-sponsors of the bill.

JSAs are financial arrangements between local TV broadcasters where one station sells advertising time for another. These agreements have become increasingly popular in recent years among broadcasters in small and medium-sized markets across the country, and the financial savings have helped to expand the diversity, localism, and competition of programming.

“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,” Blunt said. “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.”

“This is about protecting our constituents’ access to local news, politics, sports, cultural events, and emergency notifications from their own states,” Mikulski said. “Local broadcasters who play by the rules should be able to trust that Washington won’t make rule changes apply retroactively in ways that harm their ability to serve their communities.”

In September 2014, Blunt introduced a similar amendment to the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA) in the Senate Commerce Committee markup. In March 2014, Blunt took the lead in sending a letter to the FCC with members of the Missouri delegation regarding JSAs among local broadcasters. Blunt also signed on to a letter to the FCC with five of his Senate colleagues.

Background on FCC Rule:

In March 2014, the FCC decided to view JSAs as a violation of the Commission’s media ownership rules. Under the rule, broadcasters are precluded from using JSAs in the future, and preexisting JSAs already approved by the FCC will be forced to unwind. 

The FCC has not carried out its statutorily required quadrennial review of media ownership rules in more than six years. As a result, the FCC adopted this Order without current knowledge of this complex marketplace and the changes that have occurred and are continuing.  

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