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Broadcasters Take FCC to Court Over Crackdown on Station Sharing Pacts

Broadcasters are challenging the FCC’s increased scrutiny of pacts between stations to share resources and jointly sell advertising time.

The National Assn. of Broadcasters on Monday asked a federal appellate court to set aside a public notice that the FCC issued in March that set guidelines on how the agency would view such sharing agreements when processing ownership applications.

But the NAB said that the FCC’s notice was “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion,” arguing that it was a “categorical presumption” against such pacts. It argues that the guidelines were issued without giving stations the opportunity to comment on them, and that it left some broadcast station transactions in limbo because they relied on the possibility of sharing resources.

In late March, the FCC voted to prohibit most joint sales agreements, which chairman Tom Wheeler said was a way for station groups to get around the agency’s caps on the number of outlets one company could own. Stations are still allowed to apply for waivers to the new rule.

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