In North American broadcasting, a local marketing agreement (LMA), or local management agreement, is a contract in which one company agrees to operate a radio or television station owned by another party. In essence, it is a sort of lease or time-buy.

Under Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations, a local marketing agreement must give the company operating the station (the "senior" partner) under the agreement control over the entire facilities of the station, including the finances, personnel and programming of the station. Its original licensee (the "junior" partner) still remains legally responsible for the station and its operations, such as compliance with relevant regulations regarding content. Occasionally, a "local marketing agreement" may refer to the sharing or contracting of only certain functions, in particular advertising sales. This may also be referred to as a time brokerage agreement (TBA), local sales agreement (LSA), management services agreement (MSA), or most commonly, a joint sales agreement (JSA) or shared services agreement (SSA). JSAs are counted toward ownership caps for television and radio stations.[1][2] In Canada, local marketing agreements between domestic stations require the consent of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), although Rogers Media has used a similar arrangement to control a U.S.-based radio station in a border market.

The increased use of sharing agreements by media companies to form consolidated, "virtual" duopolies became controversial between 2009 and 2014, especially arrangements where a company buys a television station's facilities and assets, but sells the license to an affiliated third-party "shell" corporation, who then enters into agreements with the owner of the facilities to operate the station on their behalf. Activists have argued that broadcasters were using these agreements as a loophole for the FCC's ownership regulations, that they reduce the number of local media outlets in a market through the aggregation or outright consolidation of news programming, and allow station owners to have increased leverage in the negotiation of retransmission consent with local subscription television providers. Station owners have contended that these sharing agreements allow streamlined, cost-effective operations that may be beneficial to the continued operation of lower-rated and/or financially weaker stations, especially in smaller markets.[3]

In 2014 under chairman Tom Wheeler, the FCC began to increase its scrutiny regarding the use of such agreements—particularly joint sales—to evade its policies. On March 31, 2014, the commission voted to make joint sales agreements count as ownership if the senior partner sells 15% or more of advertising time for its partner, and to ban coordinated retransmission consent negotiations between two of the top four stations in a market. Wheeler indicated that he planned to address local marketing and shared services agreements in the future. The change in stance also prompted changes to then-proposed acquisitions by Nexstar Media Group and Sinclair Broadcast Group, who, rather than use sharing agreements to control them, moved their existing programming and network affiliations to digital subchannels of existing company-owned stations in the market, or a low-power station (which are not subject to ownership caps), and then relinquished control over the original stations by selling their licenses to third-parties, such as minority-owned broadcasters.

History and background

Due to the FCC's limits on station ownership at the time (which prevented the common ownership of multiple radio stations), local marketing agreements in radio, in which a smaller station would sell its entire airtime to a third-party in time-buy, were widespread between the 1970s and early 1990s.[4] These alliances gave larger broadcasters a way to expand their reach, and smaller broadcasters a means of obtaining a stable stream of revenue.[4] In 1992, the FCC began allowing broadcasting companies to own multiple radio stations in a single market. Following these changes, local marketing agreements largely fell out of favor for radio, as it was now possible for broadcasters to simply buy another station outright rather than lease it – consequentially triggering a wave of mass consolidation in the radio industry.[4] However, broadcasters still used local marketing agreements to help transition acquired stations to their new owners.[4]

The first local marketing agreement in North American television was formed in 1991, when the Sinclair Broadcast Group purchased Fox affiliate WPGH-TV in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As Sinclair had already owned independent station WPTT (now MyNetworkTV affiliate WPNT) in that market, which would have violated FCC rules which at the time had prohibited television station duopolies, Sinclair decided to sell the lower-rated WPTT to the station's manager Eddie Edwards, but continued to operate the station through an LMA (Sinclair eventually repurchased the station – then assigned the call letters WCWB – outright in 2000, after the Federal Communications Commission began permitting common ownership of two television stations in the same market, creating a legal duopoly).[5]

Sinclair's use of local marketing agreements would lead to legal issues in 1999, when Glencairn, Ltd. (since restructured as Cunningham Broadcasting) announced that it would acquire Fox affiliate KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma from Sullivan Broadcasting; Glencairn subsequently announced plans to sell five of its 11 existing stations that were operated by Sinclair under LMAs to that company outright. As the family of Sinclair Broadcast Group founder Julian Smith controlled 97% of Glencairn's stock assets (which remains the case under its Cunningham structure) and the company was to be paid with Sinclair stock in turn for the purchases, KOKH and Sinclair-owned WB affiliate KOCB would effectively constitute a duopoly in violation of FCC rules. The Rainbow/PUSH coalition (headed by Jesse Jackson) filed challenges against the sale with the FCC, citing concerns over a single company holding two broadcast licenses in a single market and argued that Glencairn was masquerading as a separate minority-owned company (Edwards, who served as Glencairn's president, is African American) when it was really an arm of Sinclair that the company used to gain control of the stations through LMAs.[6][7] After the FCC updated its media ownership rules to allow a single company to own two television stations in the same market in August 1999, Sinclair restructured the deal to acquire KOKH outright. In 2001, the FCC issued a $40,000 fine against Sinclair for illegally controlling Glencairn.[8]

In 1999, the FCC modified its media ownership rules to count LMAs formed after November 5, 1996 that cover more than 15% of the broadcast day toward the ownership limits for the brokering station's owner.[9] Even still, the related joint sales and shared services agreement structures became increasingly common during the 2000s; these outsourcing agreements proliferated between 2011 and 2013, when station owners such as Sinclair and the Nexstar Broadcasting Group began expanding their portfolios by acquiring additional stations in an effort to drive scale as well as to gain leverage in retransmission consent negotiations with cable and satellite television providers.



The most common use of an LMA in television broadcasting is to create a "virtual duopoly", where the stations operated under the agreement are consolidated into a single entity. The operations of the stations can be streamlined for cost-effectiveness through the sharing of resources, such as facilities, advertising sales, personnel and programming.[10] Many broadcasters that engage in the practice believe that such agreements are beneficial to the survival of television stations – especially in smaller markets, where the overall audience reach is considerably less than that of markets that are centered upon densely populated metropolitan areas, and the cost savings achieved through the consolidation of resources and staff may be necessary to fund a station's continued operation.[10][11]

Sharing agreements may also be used as a loophole to control television stations in situations where it is legally impossible to own them outright. For instance, FCC regulations only allowed a single company to own more than one full-powered television station in a given market if there are at least eight distinct station owners, and also prohibits the ownership of two or more of the four highest-rated stations (based on total day viewership) in a market. An LMA or similar agreement does not affect the ownership of the station's license, meaning that they do not require the approval of the FCC to establish, and the two stations are still legally considered separate operations from a licensing standpoint.[11] Both Tribune Media and the Gannett Company were required to use shared services agreements as a similar loophole to take control of certain stations in their respective 2013 purchases of Local TV and Belo, as they did not have exemptions to the FCC's newspaper cross-ownership restrictions in the affected markets.[12][13] Both companies have since spun out their publishing arms as independent companies; the Tribune Publishing Company and Gannett Company. Tegna, who holds the former Gannett's broadcasting and digital media properties, re-acquired the licenses for most of the affected stations following the split.[14][15] On November 16, 2017, under the Trump administration, the FCC voted in favor of removing the requirement for a market to still have eight distinct station owners in order to allow duopolies, but the prohibition of owning two of the top four stations in a market remains.[16]

Broadcasters could also collect carriage fees for the stations they operate under sharing agreements on behalf of their owner, often bundling its carriage agreements with those of stations they own outright. This could, especially in LMAs between two stations affiliated with the "major" networks, allow the broadcaster to charge higher fees for retransmission consent to television providers for carrying the stations, which could result in smaller cable companies not being able to afford the higher fees imposed. Cable television providers advocated barring sharing agreements between television stations for this particular reason. In the United States, the FCC no longer allows broadcasters to collude with one another in negotiating retransmission consent fees.[3][10][11]

Operation on behalf of a third-party owner

Although the majority of LMAs involve the outsourcing of one television station's operations to another, occasionally, a company may operate a station under an LMA, JSA or SSA even if it does not already own a station in that market. One example occurred in December 2013, when the Louisiana Media Company (owned by New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Hornets owner Tom Benson) entered into a shared services agreement with Raycom Media to run the former company's Fox affiliate in New Orleans, Louisiana, WVUE-DT; while Louisiana Media Company retained the station's ownership and license, other assets were assumed by Raycom, which owns stations in markets adjacent to New Orleans (including Baton Rouge, Jackson, Biloxi, Lake Charles and Shreveport) but not within New Orleans itself. Benson had received offers from Raycom and others to buy the station, but was not prepared to sell WVUE outright.[17][18] On April 4, 2017, Raycom acquired the station for $51.8 million.[19]

Foreign control of broadcast outlets

See also: Border blaster

LMAs can also allow companies to control foreign stations from outside of their respective country; Canadian media company Rogers Media used a joint sales agreement to operate Cape Vincent, New York radio station WLYK as a station targeting the nearby Canadian market of Kingston, Ontario, where it owns CKXC-FM and CIKR-FM. Rogers owned a 47% stake in WLYK's licensee, Border International Broadcasting.[20][21] In 2022, the principal owners of My Broadcasting Corporation acquired Border International Broadcasting via 1234567 Corporation, and assumed operations in February 2023.[22][23]

Similarly, Entravision Communications Corporation controls XHDTV-TDT, a Tijuana, Mexico-based station owned by Televisora Alco, which operated as an English-language station serving the border market of San Diego.[24]

Effects of LMAs

The studio facilities shared by WBFF, WNUV, and WUTB in Baltimore; WBFF owner Sinclair Broadcast Group operates WNUV and WUTB, which are owned by Cunningham Broadcasting and Deerfield Media.

Public interest organizations have disapproved of the use of LMAs for virtual duopolies that circumvent the FCC's rules due to their effects on the broadcasting industry, particularly the results of consolidation through the irregular use of LMAs.[10][11] In markets where duopolies are not legally possible, a company may elect to form one by purchasing a station's "non-license" assets (such as their physical facilities, programming rights, and other intellectual property), and selling the license itself to a third-party "sidecar" company (which is often affiliated with the purchaser), which in turn, enters into an LMA or a similar agreement with the senior partner. The FCC only recognizes ownership of television stations by the ownership of their license and facility ID, and not by the ownership of these "non-license" assets; this means that the senior partner becomes the de facto owner and operator of the station, but the sidecar is still the legal owner.[10][11][25] Although the FCC determines a sidecar firm to be an independent entity from the company using it to outsource station operations for licensing purposes, the Securities and Exchange Commission does not make such a designation, requiring reports on sidecars to be included in a broadcaster's financial statements.[26][27]

Both Sinclair and Nexstar became infamous for their frequent use of sidecars as part of their expansion and consolidation tactics, partnering with companies like Cunningham Broadcasting, Deerfield Media, Mission Broadcasting, and even each other in the case of former virtual duopolies in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania between Sinclair-owned CBS affiliate WHP-TV and Nexstar-owned CW affiliate WLYH-TV (which ended in 2015 amid Sinclair's acquisition of Allbritton Communications, which saw WHTM-TV sold to Media General to avoid conflicts with WHP, and WYLH's license sold to Howard Stirk Holdings),[28][29] and Rochester, New York between Nexstar-owned CBS affiliate WROC-TV and Sinclair-owned Fox affiliate WUHF (which ended in January 2014 after Deerfield Media acquired ABC affiliate WHAM-TV).[10][11][30]

While not to the same, wide extent as Sinclair and Nexstar, some broadcasters have similar business relationships with specific sidecar companies as partners for these agreements:

Effects on programming

The stations partnered through a sharing agreement may also consolidate their programming operations: local newscasts on the junior partner in the LMA, if it operated a separate news department before the LMA's formation, may be rescheduled or scaled back to prevent direct competition with newscasts airing on the station acting as the senior partner (the latter aspect is less common with LMAs involving only stations affiliated with one of the four largest broadcast television networks). The stations may share news-gathering resources, but maintain separate news telecasts that are differentiated by their on-air presentation, anchors, and overall format, with varying degrees of autonomy;[41] in these cases, a seemingly separate newscast on the brokered station in the duopoly may ultimately consist of repackaged news content from the other station.[11] Alternatively, the stations may consolidate their news programming under a single joint brand.[25][42]

Redundant staff members are often laid off as part of the consolidation process, and the sharing of news content reduces the number of unique editorial voices in the market. This in particular is one of the caveats of pushes to ban outsourcing agreements by media consolidation critics, who also suggest that LMAs result in a decreased amount of local news coverage on the brokered station.[10][11][43]

Depending on how the outsourcing agreement is structured, as well as how the brokered station is programmed, how the stations are consolidated and the amount of news programming featured on the brokered station may vary, for example:

KWGN and KPLR moved The CW's primetime lineup one hour later (to 8:00 p.m.) than the network-recommended timeslot, and shifted their evening newscasts to 7:00 p.m. (weekend editions of the evening newscasts were discontinued with the move; KPLR has since expanded its 7:00 p.m. newscast to Saturday and Sunday evenings) to avoid competing with KDVR and KTVI's 9:00 p.m. newscasts; KWGN retained its weekday morning newscast (which competes directly with KDVR's morning newscast), but canceled its 5:30 p.m. – and later, 11:00 a.m. – newscasts. In contrast, KPLR (which had run a primetime newscast for much of its history) eventually added hour-long midday and late afternoon newscasts.[46][47][48][49][50] The two LMA arrangements became legal duopolies in December 2013, once Tribune finalized its acquisition of Local TV.[51][52]
Sinclair formed a similar arrangement in Mobile, Alabama between its existing Pensacola duopoly of ABC affiliate WEAR-TV and MyNetworkTV affiliate WFGX, and the newly acquired Mobile duopoly of NBC affiliate WPMI and independent station WJTC (owned by Deerfield Media). However, the stations were not consolidated, and maintain their own studio facilities, news departments and staff. WEAR and WPMI also produce competing 9:00 p.m. newscasts for their respective duopoly partners.[70][71][72]

Reaction and government action

In February 2001, Clear Channel Communications subsidiary Citicasters was fined $25,000 for its use of time brokerage agreements and litigation for unlawfully controlling Youngstown, Ohio area radio station WBTJ (101.9 FM, now WYLR); the company had also been the target of complaints for using KFJO (FM) to rebroadcast KSJO after it had nominally sold KFJO to minority-owned interests.[73][74][75][76]

In 2009, the Media Council of Hawaii complained to the FCC about Raycom's Hawaii News Now operation, stating that it would "directly reduce the diversity of local voices in a community by replacing independent newscasts on the brokered station with those of the brokering station." In response, the FCC stated it would begin to investigate into the matter.[11][25]

In 2011, after temporarily losing its Fox affiliation for WFFT-TV to a subchannel of WISE-TV due to a reverse compensation dispute, Nexstar (ironically, given its use of similar practices in other markets)[11] filed an antitrust lawsuit against the station's managing partner, Granite Broadcasting, arguing that it had built a monopoly on local advertising sales by having effective control of the outlets for four major networks (ABC and MyNetworkTV on WPTA, and NBC, Fox, and The CW on WISE-TV; owned by Malara Broadcast Group and operated under agreements by Granite).[77] The lawsuit was settled in February 2013 via mutual agreement, after which the Fox affiliation was given back to WFFT.[78]


Gannett acquisition of Belo

Belo Tower in Dallas, Texas.

Gannett Company's 2013 acquisition of Belo was opposed by organizations such as the American Cable Association and Free Press, due to Gannett's plans to use LMAs and two shell companies owned by former Belo and Fisher Communications executives (respectively, Sander Media and Tucker Operating Co.) to dodge FCC newspaper cross-ownership restrictions in Louisville, Phoenix, Portland, Oregon and Tucson. Although Gannett contended that the arrangements were legal, Free Press president Craig Aaron stated that "the FCC shouldn't let Gannett break the rules. Media consolidation results in fewer journalists in the newsroom and fewer opinions on the airwaves. Concentrating media outlets in the hands of just a few companies benefits only the companies themselves." The deal would have given Gannett a virtual triopoly in Phoenix, consisting of its NBC station KPNX, independent station KTVK and CW affiliate KASW. In Tucson, Fox affiliate KMSB and MyNetworkTV affiliate KTTU were already operated by Raycom Media's CBS affiliate KOLD-TV under a shared services agreement established under Belo ownership, but Gannett would still handle advertising sales for the stations.[68]

In December 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice blocked Gannett from using an agreement with Sander Media to operate CBS affiliate KMOV in St. Louis alongside its own NBC station KSDK, and ordered Gannett to sell KMOV. Even though Gannett planned to operate KMOV separately from KSDK, the Department ruled the agreement to be a violation of antitrust law, as it would reduce competition for advertising sales.[79] Following the closure of the Belo purchase, Meredith Corporation announced a deal to purchase KMOV, along with KTVK and KASW. As Meredith would have a duopoly between KTVK and its Phoenix CBS affiliate KPHO-TV, KASW was to be sold to SagamoreHill Broadcasting and operated by Meredith under an LMA.[12][68][80] As a result of the FCC's scrutiny on any new station sharing agreements, on October 23, 2014, Meredith would backtrack on this plan and instead sell KASW to the Nexstar Broadcasting Group, which would operate the station independently of KTVK and KPHO.[81]

Following Gannett's split into independent broadcasting and publishing companies, Tegna, Inc.—the owner of Gannett's stations following the split, bought back the licenses to the Sander Media stations, placing them back under its full control.[14]

Sinclair acquisition of Allbritton

As part of its planned acquisition of Allbritton Communications, Sinclair originally planned to sell its existing stations in three markets – Charleston, South Carolina, Birmingham, Alabama and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – where Allbritton already owned stations, but continue to operate them under local marketing agreements. WABM and WTTO in Birmingham and WHP-TV in Harrisburg were to be sold to Deerfield Media, and WMMP in Charleston was to be sold to Howard Stirk Holdings–a broadcasting company owned by conservative pundit Armstrong Williams.[82] Howard Stirk Holdings was first established in 2013 with its acquisition of two conflicting stations in Sinclair's earlier acquisition of Barrington Broadcasting.[83]

In December 2013, FCC Video Division Chief Barbara Kreisman sent a letter demanding information from the Sinclair Broadcast Group on the financial aspects of its "sidecar" operations, and warned that in the three aforementioned markets, "the proposed transactions would result in the elimination of the grandfathered status of certain local marketing agreements and thus cause the transactions to violate our local TV ownership rules."[82] It was asserted that the deal might only be legal if the affected stations were operated under shared services agreements.[82][84] Sinclair restructured the deal in March 2014, choosing to sell WHP-TV, WMMP and WABM, and terminate an SSA with the Cunningham-owned Fox affiliate WTAT in Charleston to acquire the Allbritton-owned stations in those markets (WCIV, WHTM-TV and WBMA-LD, while also creating a new duopoly between the ABC and CW affiliates in Birmingham), as well as foregoing any operational or financial agreements with the buyers of the stations being sold to other parties.[85][86]

In May 2014, Sinclair disclosed in an FCC filling that it was unable to find buyers for the three affected stations, requiring changes to its transaction.[87] In Harrisburg, Sinclair chose to retain WHP-TV, and divest WHTM to Media General.[88] However, in Charleston and Birmingham, the company proposed to shut down stations entirely (rather than selling them to other buyers that would also handle their operational responsibilities) so it could maintain legal duopolies; surrendering the licenses for WCIV and the full-powered repeaters of WBMA-LD (WJSU and WCFT), and moving their ABC programming to Sinclair's existing stations WMMP and WABM respectively – which would shift their existing MyNetworkTV programming to digital subchannels.[87] After nearly a year of delays, Sinclair's deal to acquire Allbritton was approved by the FCC on July 24, 2014.[89]

Nexstar acquisition of Tribune

Nexstar Media Group acquired Tribune Media in 2019; to meet ownership limits, it divested 21 stations to the E. W. Scripps Company, Tegna Inc., and Circle City Broadcasting.[90][91][92] The divested stations included Tribune's New York City flagship WPIX; the station was sold to Scripps, but with a $75 million option for Nexstar to buy it back between March 31, 2020 and December 31, 2021. Nexstar transferred this option to Mission Broadcasting, who subsequently exercised it in August 2020 (the following month, Scripps announced its intent to acquire Ion Media, including its New York station WPXN-TV).[91][93][94]

In March 2024, the FCC fined Nexstar and Mission $1.2 million and $612,395 respectively, and ordered Mission to sell WPIX within twelve months; the FCC found that Mission's agreements with Nexstar to operate WPIX amounted to an "unauthorized transfer of control" of the station, thus exceeding the FCC's 39% market share limit for broadcasters. Nexstar must either divest other stations so it can legally own WPIX, or Mission must sell the station to a third-party.[95][94]

FCC limits on joint sales agreements for television stations

In response to criticism of the virtual duopolies and sharing agreements, the FCC began to consider potential changes to address these loopholes. In March 2013, the Commission first tabled a proposal that would make joint sales agreements count the same as ownership.[96]

In January 2014 town hall meeting, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler disclosed that he planned to place more scrutiny on the use of LMA-style agreements and shell companies, stating that "there were a couple of references in a couple of recent decisions in which we've said that we're going to do things differently going forward on what were called these shell corporations." Later that month, it was reported that the FCC had placed all pending acquisitions involving the use of shell companies on hold, so the Commission could discuss changes to its policies. Among the deals affected by this decision included the aforementioned Sinclair/Allbritton purchase.[97][98]

On March 6, 2014, the FCC announced that it would hold a vote on March 31 on a proposal to ban joint sales agreements involving television stations outright, making them attributable to FCC ownership limits if the senior partner sells 15% or more of advertising time of a competing junior partner station in the JSA; the ban applies to both existing sharing agreements under such a structure as well as pending station transactions that include a JSA. Station owners would be given a two-year grace period to unwind or modify joint sales agreements in violation of the policy; coordinated retransmission consent negotiations between two of the four highest-rated stations in a single market would also be barred under the proposal. Wheeler also proposed an expedited process to review joint sales agreements on a case-by-case basis, granting a waiver of the rules if a broadcaster can prove a particular joint sales agreement arrangement serves the public interest.[99][100]

On March 12, 2014, the FCC Media Bureau released a notice that it would further analyze television station transactions that include sharing agreements, particularly those that include a purchase option that "may counter any incentive the licensee has to increase the value of the station, since the licensee may be unlikely to realize that increased value."[101] Under the new provisions, broadcasters must demonstrate in their transaction applications as to how such deals would serve the public interest.[101] The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) – which, along with station groups such as Sinclair Broadcast Group, have disapproved of the proposal to ban JSAs – presented a compromise proposal, in which the brokered licensee in a sharing agreement would retain control over at least 85 percent of the station's programming, maintain at least 70 percent of ad sales revenue and "maintain at least 20 percent of station value in the license itself".[102] FCC commissioner Ajit Pai, and Gordon Smith, president of the NAB, were also opposed to the new rules on joint sales agreements, believing that they would discourage the ownership of television stations by minority-owned companies.[89][103] Tom Wheeler, however, proposed the restrictions in the hopes of encouraging more women and minorities to own stations, due to the ongoing consolidation in the television industry through company mergers and sharing agreements.[104]

On March 31, 2014, the FCC voted 3–2 to approve the proposed ban on joint sales agreements and voted 5–0 to approve the proposed ban on coordinated retransmission consent negotiations between two of the four highest-rated stations within a given market; the JSA ban went into effect on June 19, 2014.[105] Under the restrictions, the FCC would rule on waivers to maintain select existing JSAs within 90 days of the application's filing. The FCC also began a request for comment on policies to address other agreements, such as shared services agreements.[2][3][106] The prohibition on television JSAs had been proposed as early as 2004, a year after the FCC voted to treat JSAs between radio stations as duopolies. Despite this fact, broadcasting companies criticized the ban, accusing the Commission of using it as a move to encourage participation in a spectrum incentive auction then set to occur in 2015, and stating that the ban would place them at a disadvantage during retransmission consent negotiations with pay television providers.[107][108]

On December 19, 2015, as a rider to the federal budget, the grace period for unwinding or modifying existing JSAs was extended to 10 years.[109] On May 25, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit struck down the restrictions on joint sales agreements, ruling that the FCC cannot manipulate its ownership rules without "[in] the previous four years, [fulfilling] its obligation to review [the] rule and determine whether it is in the public interest".[110] On November 16, 2017, under the Trump administration, the FCC voted in favor of no longer having JSAs attributable to ownership.[16]

Divestment and subchannel consolidation of stations

The increased scrutiny being imposed by the FCC regarding local marketing, shared services, and joint sales agreements have led to more drastic measures by broadcasting companies attempting to use them in acquisitions; in 2014, two broadcasting companies declared intents to shut acquired stations down entirely and consolidate their programming onto existing stations through multicasting, rather than attempting to use sidecars and sharing agreements or selling them to other parties that would assume full responsibility of their day-to-day operations.[111][112]

In May 2014, Sinclair informed the FCC that it was unable to find buyers for WABM or WMMP – the company's MyNetworkTV stations in Birmingham, Alabama, and Charleston, South Carolina, that it planned to sell in its purchase of Allbritton Communications. In Birmingham, the company proposed surrendering the licenses of WCFT-TV and WJSU-TV – the two full-powered satellites of ABC affiliate WBMA-LD, converting WABM into a full-powered satellite of WBMA-LD – and moving its existing MyNetworkTV programming to a digital subchannel of WABM (although the WBMA-LD simulcast was placed on WABM's subchannel instead while MyNetworkTV programming was retained on its main channel). Similarly, in Charleston, Sinclair planned to surrender WCIV's license and move its ABC affiliation and programming to WMMP. In both cases, Sinclair believed that its own stations had superior technical facilities than those of the stations it intends to surrender.[87][112] Sinclair was able to retain WBMA-LD in any event as the FCC does not impose any ownership limits on low-power stations.[113]

On June 13, 2014, Gray Television announced that it would shutter six stations and consolidate existing programming onto subchannels of Gray-owned stations in their respective market. Unlike Sinclair, however, Gray stated that it would sell the licenses of the shuttered stations to minority-owned broadcasters in collaboration with the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council – under the condition that they would operate them independently from other stations in the market, and without the use of any sharing agreements. All six of the stations were owned by companies other than Gray, but their non-license assets are either owned by Gray, or were operated by stations now owned by Gray under agreements. Gray would operate the affected stations under LMAs until the sales and consolidation are complete. Aside from one, most of the stations involved in these changes were related to Gray's acquisition of stations from Hoak Media. Three of these stations were immediately shut down the same day, while the remainder remained operated by Gray until the sales were completed.[111][114][115] Gray announced buyers for the stations on August 27, 2014.[116]

The six stations affected by Gray's move included:

Following the approval of Sinclair's purchase of Allbritton, commissioner Ajit Pai further criticized the FCC's new policies and its endorsement of Sinclair's proposal to shut down stations to comply with them. Describing the three Allbritton stations as being "victims" of the "crackdown" against joint sales agreements, he stated regarding WCIV that "apparently the Commission believes that it is better for that station to go out of business than for Howard Stirk Holdings to own the station and participate in a joint sales agreement with Sinclair. I strongly disagree. And so too, I'll bet, would consumers in Charleston."[89] In September 2014, Sinclair backtracked on its original plans, and reached deals to sell WCIV, WCFT and WJSU's license assets to Howard Stirk Holdings for $50,000 each and lease them studio space, pending FCC approval. Unlike Howard Stirk Holdings' other stations, they are operated and programmed independently, and Sinclair did not enter into any agreements to operate the stations on Stirk's behalf.[123][124][125][126]

In Quincy Newspapers' acquisition of Granite Broadcasting's remaining stations, the acquisition was briefly re-structured to have Malara Broadcast Group—which served as a virtual duopoly partner for Granite with WISE-TV (NBC) Fort Wayne and KDLH-TV Duluth (CBS), retain the stations and their current agreements with WPTA and KBJR-TV in lieu of having them sold to SagamoreHill Broadcasting. The acquisition was restructured in July 2015 to, again, have SagamoreHill Broadcasting acquire the two stations, but have their current SSAs wound down within nine months. Following the end of the SSA, the two stations retained The CW as independently run stations, with their remaining affiliations moved to subchannels of KBJR and WPTA.[127][128][129] Quincy similarly wound down an SSA in Peoria, Illinois with Sinclair-owned WHOI by trading its South Bend Fox affiliation (previously held by WSJV-TV) to Sinclair (where it moved to a subchannel of WSBT-TV), in exchange for WHOI's ABC and CW affiliations, which moved to subchannels of WEEK-TV.[130][131] In 2018, Quincy re-purchased WISE and KDLH, under an assertion that both stations were not within the top 4 of their respective markets.[132][133]

WAGT dispute

Outside Television Park, the facilities which were shared by WJBF and WAGT.

In February 2016, Gray Television acquired Schurz Communications' stations, including Augusta, Georgia's WAGT. As Gray could not own both WAGT and its existing CBS affiliate WRDW-TV as a legal duopoly, Gray proposed the sale of WAGT's broadcast spectrum during the incentive auction, and for WAGT to go silent upon completion of the deal so the company would not be running more than one of the top four stations in the market.[134] Gray also requested special temporary authority for WAGT's signal to be replaced on its existing technical facilities and UHF channel 30 by the co-owned low-power station, WRDW-CD; low-power stations are not subject to ownership caps and restrictions on duopolies.[113][135]

The FCC, however, required that Gray continue to operate WAGT as a separate station through the end of the auction, and not enter into any joint sales agreements.[134] Upon the closure of the sale, Gray unwound the shared services and joint sales agreements that Schurz had established with WJBF-TV and Media General, and replaced its previous news programs with simulcasts from WRDW.[136][137] Gray also accused WJBF of "[refusing] to agree to a smooth transition of personnel [from WAGT]", as WAGT's employees fall under the employment of Media General due to the SSA.[138]

On February 26, 2016, Media General obtained a preliminary injunction against Gray for violating the SSA and JSA, which required that Gray return control of WAGT to Media General, and forbade Gray from selling WAGT in the spectrum incentive auction. The company accused Gray of using the spectrum auction and sale of the station to exit the agreements illegitimately, as they were to last through 2020, and apply to any future owner of WAGT. Gray attempted to block the injunction by arguing that its actions were required in order to comply with the FCC's prohibition of joint sales agreements, but was denied.[139][140] Media General took back control of WAGT on March 7, 2016.[59]

On March 10, 2016, FCC Deputy General Counsel David Gossett announced that the Commission would investigate Media General's actions as possibly being in violation of Section 310(d) of the Communications Act. Gossett argued that by legally blocking Gray's participation in the spectrum auction, Media General had "[sought] injunctive relief that interferes with a licensee's ultimate control of a station". He also stated that the FCC could consider a license revocation hearing against Media General under Section 312 of the Communications Act.[141][142] On March 23, 2016, the Supreme Court of Georgia struck down the injunction without addressing the litigation, and Gray took back control of WAGT.[143] On July 13, 2016, Media General was issued a $700,000 fine by the FCC.[144] WAGT's spectrum sold for $40,763,036.[145]

DirecTV lawsuit

In March 2023, DirecTV sued Nexstar Media Group, alleging that it was conspiring with the sidecar companies Mission Broadcasting and White Knight Broadcasting to manipulate retransmission fees for its stations. The company, which had been in a carriage dispute with Mission and White Knight since October 2022, stated that the companies "effectively relinquished decision-making authority to Nexstar, which has served as the ringleader of a conspiracy to harm competition and violate the antitrust laws."[146]



Local marketing agreements are effectively prohibited under the regulations of the CRTC, which require that all broadcast undertakings be "operated in fact by the licensee itself".[147] Rogers Media and Newcap Broadcasting maintained a joint sales agreement pertaining to CHNO-FM in Sudbury, Ontario, but community interests and the lobby group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting presented substantial evidence to the CRTC that in practice, the agreement was a de facto LMA, going significantly beyond advertising sales into program production and news-gathering. In early 2005, the CRTC ordered the agreement to cease.[148]

For a time, CKEY-FM in Fort Erie, Ontario had a JSA with Citadel Communications to handle advertising sales for the station under a revenue sharing agreement, integrating it with its cluster in nearby Buffalo, New York. In an associated agreement, the station also contracted Citadel employees to produce some of its programming. Due to the structure of this JSA, and because the aforementioned programming was overseen by local producers, the CRTC deemed that the agreement did not equate to a transfer of effective control of the station to Citadel, and thus complied with its regulations (taking greater issue with the amount of locally-reflective programming carried by the station).[149][147]

Rogers Media holds a time-brokerage agreement with CBC Television to air Hockey Night in Canada on the network as part of its exclusive rights to the National Hockey League, in order to maintain the long-running franchise and the league's presence on CBC. In exchange for assigning commercial advertising time to Rogers, the CBC does not pay a rights fee, and also receives advertising time for its own programming during Hockey Night broadcasts. The CBC also initially received payments for use of some of its staff and its Toronto studios.[150] To legally assign responsibility to Rogers, the broadcasts are considered to be the programming of a CRTC-licensed television network owned by Rogers' Sportsnet subsidiary, which has an affiliation with all of CBC Television's stations. Despite the legal nature of this arrangement, the broadcasts still contain CBC Television continuity and branding.[151]


In 2008, the Filipino Associated Broadcasting Company leased its airtime to the Malaysian broadcaster Media Prima (through the local subsidiary MPB Primedia) similar to an LMA – with MPB Primedia providing entertainment programming, and ABC handling news programming and operations. Soon afterward, ABC and Media Prima were sued by rival media company GMA for attempting to use the partnership to skirt laws requiring domestic ownership of broadcasters. In response, ABC's media relations head Pat Marcelo-Magbanua reiterated that the subsidiary was a Filipino company which was self-registered and Filipino-run.[152] The concerns became moot in 2010, when Media Prima announced it would divest its ownership in the network to PLDT's broadcasting subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings.[153]

Throughout the last week of June 2011, several plugs with the statement "Si Pangga, Dreaming!" were heard on the then-Interactive Broadcast Media-owned DWET-FM (106.7 mHz, then licensed in Quezon City), which had just ended its broadcast under the previous smooth jazz format "Dream FM". Later on, it was revealed that Ultrasonic Broadcasting System, a radio network owned by the SYSU Group of Companies, has started operating the station under LMA as contemporary MOR "Energy FM on Dream 106.7" (later changed to "106.7 Energy FM" once the station's eventual sale to UBS was completed).

The term "airtime lease" is also used by other media entities, particularly those from larger media companies that has a lack of obtaining its broadcast franchise from the Congress, while others are owned by various herbal supplement manufacturers. Only Brigada Mass Media Corporation and Bandera News Philippines operate a handful of radio stations under the same method.

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