Federal Register publication also sets deadlines for comments on changes to ownership rules proposed in 2014 Quadrennial Regulatory Review.
What with the Federal Register publication of the new retrans consent restrictions, you had to know that the new limits on TV joint sales agreements (JSAs) couldn’t be far behind. And sure enough, the FCC’s 2014 Quadrennial Regulatory Review (2014 Quad Reg Review) decision has now been published in the Federal Register in two separate parts – one covering the Report and Order component and the other covering the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) component.
As a result, we now know when the new JSA rules for TV licensees will take effect – that would be June 19, 2014. We also know that comments on the various proposals in the NPRM are due by July 7, 2014 and reply comments by August 4.
While the new JSA rules require that TV JSAs old and new be submitted to the Commission (and placed in stations’ online public inspection files), that requirement will not kick in on June 19. Because that aspect of the rules constitutes an “information collection”, it must first be run past the Office of Management and Budget pursuant to the hilariously-named Paperwork Reduction Act. As a result, we don’t expect the file-with-the-FCC/place-in-the-public-file component to take effect for another four-six months or so. Check back here for updates.
But even if the reporting requirement won’t be taking effect on June 19, the underlying substantive obligations of the new JSA rules will. That means that any new TV joint sales arrangements will have to comply with the new rules. And for licensees with existing JSAs that put them over the applicable ownership limits thanks to the new rules, the two-year clock for restructuring or otherwise eliminating the overage will start on June 19 – so let’s all get out our calendars and mark June 19, 2016 as the target date (actually, since June 19, 2016 will be a Sunday, the correct date to mark will probably be June 20, 2016).
Anyone thinking about filing for reconsideration of Report and Order component should be prepared to have their petitions on file by June 19, 2014. If you’re inclined instead to take the new rules straight to court, you’ll have until July 21. You can file in most (but not necessarily all) U.S. Courts of Appeals, but keep in mind that, if you have a preferred circuit, you should jump through the appropriate hoops.
Bear in mind, too, that the terms of the Media Bureau’s Public Notice, issued a month or so in advance of the Commission’s adoption of the 2014 Quad Reg Review, are already in effect. That notice laid out “guidance” on how the Bureau would analyze pending and future applications proposing sharing arrangements. The NAB has sought review of the Bureau’s notice by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (Case No. 14-1072, for those of you with PACER access). The NAB is geared up to argue, among other things, that the Bureau’s notice is in some ways inconsistent with the Commission’s Quad Reg Review decision. How the NAB’s appeal will play out – and whether the Bureau will revise its public notice in light of the Quad Reg Review – obviously remains to be seen. Again, check back here for updates.