The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and two other parties filed separate court petitions last Friday that challenge the FCC’s recent decision to deem joint sales agreements (JSAs) among two or more television broadcast stations in the same market as attributable ownership interests. Petitions against the FCC’s March 31 order were submitted to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by the NAB and by Nexstar Broadcasting Group, as the Prometheus Radio Project filed an appeal with the Third Circuit Court. Mirroring rules that the FCC applied to radio station JSAs in the 1990s, the new rules classify a JSA as an attributable interest when 15% or more of a TV station’s advertising time is sold to a competing local station. Television broadcasters contend that the mandated rule changes could severely impact small station owners that lack the financial and other means to negotiate independently for favorable advertising terms. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and his Democratic colleagues who voted in favor of the order have argued, however, that the JSA rule revisions close a loophole in the agency’s media ownership policy that has resulted in undue ownership concentration and has lessened competition and diversity. The March 31 order was adopted 3-2 along party lines with both Republican commissioners issuing dissenting statements. In addition to challenging the new rules as arbitrary and capricious, all three petitions take issue with the FCC’s decision to enact the JSA restrictions without having completed its most recent quadrennial review of the media ownership rules in 2010 as mandated by Congress. The FCC voted in March effectively to fold the 2010 media ownership review in proceedings to launch the 2014 quadrennial review. Asserting that Congress requires the FCC to review its ownership rules every four years to “determine whether any of [them] are necessary in the public interest,” NAB charged the FCC with violating its congressional mandate and further declared that “a fact-based examination of today’s marketplace would show that FCC ownership restrictions against free and local broadcasters are outdated in a world of national pay TV giants.” It is expected that the petitions will be consolidated into a single case that will be handled by either the D.C. or Third Circuit Court as determined by a lottery.