WASHINGTON May 30 The National Association of
Broadcasters is suing U.S. regulators over a ban on TV stations
sharing advertising staff in what are known as joint sales
agreements, the trade group said on Friday.
Nexstar Broadcasting Group Inc said it also
challenged the March 31 decision by the Federal Communications
Commission to prohibit broadcast companies from controlling two
or more TV stations in a market through joint ad sales.
Both lawsuits ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District
of Columbia Circuit to overturn the FCC ruling.
Under the new rules, approved in a 3-2 FCC vote along
political party lines, a broadcaster is counted as having an
ownership interest in any station where that owner sells 15
percent or more of weekly advertising time. Current FCC rules
typically prohibit one broadcaster from owning two TV stations
in one local market.
Republican FCC commissioners and broadcasters have argued
that such agreements are vital to financially strapped local
television stations, which can save cash on advertising sales
and instead use it to improve programming.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, backed by the U.S. Department of
Justice, has called such ad sharing agreements a loophole for
some TV stations to skirt existing rules and amass market power.
The NAB, in its petition, argues that the FCC's move
violated its congressional mandate by setting the rules before
completing the 2010 review of media ownership rules, which is
required every four years. The FCC in March voted to launch the
2014 review, effectively folding the 2010 review into it.
On Thursday, television station owner Sinclair Broadcast
Group Inc said it planned to take three of its
stations off air to comply with the FCC's rules on joint sales
after it could not find a buyer for those stations.
Though public interest groups saw Sinclair's action as a
political move, Republican FCC commissioners Ajit Pai and Mike
O'Rielly said it dovetailed with concerns they had expressed
earlier, that the rules would hurt local TV markets.
The case is National Association of Broadcasters v. Federal
Communications Commission and United States of America, U.S.
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, No.
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Ros Krasny and Grant