The Justice Department is calling for tougher federal rules to limit the ability of TV stations to coordinate with each other.
The department’s Antitrust Division filed a report Friday with the Federal Communications Commission, urging the agency to crack down on arrangements that local TV stations use to share costs. The division warned that those arrangements are undermining the FCC’s media-ownership restrictions, which are intended to promote diverse views in the media.
The division criticized “joint sales agreements,” which allow TV stations to sell ads for each other, and “joint services agreements,” in which TV stations share resources, such as news helicopters or staff. The Justice Department warned that the deals allow one TV company to exert “influence or control” over competitors.
The department recommended that the FCC bar the joint sales deals if current rules would prohibit the stations from merging. The department said the FCC should evaluate the service-sharing deals on a case-by-case basis.
The report is a boost to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who is expected to push an order next month that would closely track those recommendations.
But he will likely have to override Republican opposition. Both Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly, the two Republicans on the five-member commission, have signaled that they would oppose tougher TV ownership rules.
Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, said he “strongly disagrees” with the DOJ report, which he warned could “kill jobs and damage the economics of local broadcasting.”
“Joint sales agreements allow local TV stations that might otherwise go out of business to increase local news and community service, and to provide robust competition to pay TV giants,” he said. “In an era when $200 monthly bills from consolidated broadband and cable companies are becoming the norm, it’s important to remember that heavily regulated local TV stations remain free of charge to every American.”
The FCC is required to review its media ownership rules every four years, but it never completed its 2010 study, which is now being combined with the 2014 review.
Wheeler will circulate the new ownership rules among the FCC commissioners as soon as next week for a vote at the March 19 meeting, according to officials. The commission is also expected to seek public comments on its rules restricting the ability of a single company to own a broadcast station and newspaper in a single market.
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With three days until the first debate, the polls are coming fast and furious. The latest round:
- An Associated Press/Gfk poll of registered voters found very few voters committed, with Clinton leading Trump, 37% to 29%, and Gary Johnson at 7%.
- A McClatchy-Marist poll gave Clinton a six-point edge, 45% to 39%, in a four-way ballot test. Johnson pulls 10% support, with Jill Stein at 4%.
- Rasmussen, which has drawn criticism for continually showing Donald Trump doing much better than he does in other polls, is at it again. A new survey gives Trump a five-point lead, 44%-39%.
In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shunning traditional debate preparations, but has been watching video of…Clinton’s best and worst debate moments, looking for her vulnerabilities.” Trump “has paid only cursory attention to briefing materials. He has refused to use lecterns in mock debate sessions despite the urging of his advisers. He prefers spitballing ideas with his team rather than honing them into crisp, two-minute answers.”
Donald Trump "is on the precipice of becoming the only major-party presidential candidate this century not to reach out to millions of American voters whose dominant, first or just preferred language is Spanish. Trump has not only failed to buy any Spanish-language television or radio ads, he so far has avoided even offering a translation of his website into Spanish, breaking with two decades of bipartisan tradition."
Bill and Hillary Clinton have purchased the home next door to their primary residence in tony Chappaqua, New York, for $1.16 million. "By purchasing the new home, the Clinton's now own the entire cul-de-sac at the end of the road in the leafy New York suburb. The purchase makes it easier for the United States Secret Service to protect the former president and possible future commander in chief."