The Telecommunications Law Resource Center is the most comprehensive reference and news platform for communications law, covering broadcasting, cable, broadband, telephony and wireless;...
July 29 — Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. will pay about $9.5 million under the terms of a settlement reached between the company and the Federal Communications Commission, the agency announced July 29.
The settlement resolves an investigation into whether Sinclair violated the standards for good-faith negotiations by negotiating broadcast retransmission deals with pay-TV providers on behalf of 36 TV stations with which it held sharing agreements.
Once Sinclair makes the settlement payment, the FCC said it will grant license renewals to 90 Sinclair-owned stations. A number of the license renewals had faced challenges based on a range of claims including alleged violation of ownership limits and one claim of distorting the news presented on a particular station. In some cases, objections to the license renewals went back years, with the earliest dating from 2004.
Rebecca Hanson, Sinclair's senior vice president of strategy and policy, said in a statement the company “look[s] forward to starting this next chapter with a clean slate in the Media Bureau,” the FCC division that had been investigating the claims against Sinclair.
Because the investigation ended in a no-fault settlement and involved a wide variety of actions allegedly undertaken by Sinclair stations around the country, it may be hard for broadcasters to read much into the settlement, Howard Liberman, a telecommunications attorney at Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP in Washington, told Bloomberg BNA.
“The problem in general with consent decrees is, normally, if somebody is fined for something, the FCC would say, 'Here's what you did,' and you're fined for it, and there's a deterrent effect,” he said. “You can't tell here what they did that cost them $10 million. They didn't admit any liability. Although the allegations are set forth, you can't tell which of those allegations stuck to the wall.”
Another D.C. broadcast attorney speaking on background told Bloomberg BNA the Media Bureau does sometimes use consent decrees to send messages to the industry about where it stands on an issue.
The bureau may use the decrees to warn broadcasters to think twice about operating under an interpretation of the commission's rules that may run contrary to what was issued in a consent decree, the attorney said.
Broadcasters, pay-TV providers and the FCC have wrestled with sharing agreements such as those cited in the settlement.
The FCC in 2014 voted to limit sharing agreements and joint retransmission negotiations between broadcasters. Congress reinforced the joint negotiation ban in the STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014 (2015 TLN 20, 1/1/15) but later used its fiscal 2016 omnibus spending bill to grandfather in as permissible all joint sales agreements that were in existence before the FCC acted to limit them (2016 TLN 8, 1/1/16).
In May, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacated the rule in part because the FCC hadn't completed an overdue review of media ownership rules (2016 TLN 5, 6/1/16) Howard Stirk Holdings LLC v. FCC, et al (3d Cir. 2016) (decision).
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at email@example.com
The consent decree detailing the terms of the settlement is available at: http://src.bna.com/hf4.
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)