WASHINGTON — What a difference a year makes. In 1995, the National Assn. of Broadcasters’ board was divided when it came to local management agreements and refused to release the trade group’s lobbyists to argue on behalf of greater deregulation.
But in recent months, groups like Cox Broadcasting and Hearst Broadcasting, which opposed LMAs a year ago, have since signed deals of their own. Both Cox and Hearst have seats on the NAB board and insiders are betting the NAB lobbyists will be unleashed after a pro-LMA vote this weekend at the annual meeting in Naples, Fla.
“I’m not going to be a hypocrite,” said Cox Broadcasting prexy Nicholas Trigony. “My own personal view is that they should be relaxed.” During the last year, Trigony’s company has signed three LMA deals in Reno, Charlotte and New Orleans. “A lot of people who were against this have rethought their position,” he said.
LMAs allow a broadcaster to control the programming of a second station in a market where it already owns a sta-tion. Broadcasters use the arrangement to get around the current ban on owning more than one station in a market. By managing the programming on two stations in a single market, the broadcaster has much more leverage with programmers.
Even though he flirted with the idea of entering an LMA of his own, Meredith Broadcasting Corp. prexy Phil Jones said he still opposes them. Jones is the chairman of the NAB board. “I think it’s a dangerous thing for the in-dustry,” said Jones, “It does limit the number of voices in the marketplace and it smacks of unfair competition.”
The Federal Communications Commission is reviewing its LMA policy. Currently, no official rule covers LMAs. One proposal would grandfather existing LMAs but ban them in the future.