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FCC streamlines rules for transferring TV satellite stations

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on March 12 unanimously agreed to streamline the regulatory review process around reauthorizing television satellite stations when they are assigned or transferred as part of a deal.

Television satellite stations are full-power broadcast stations that generally retransmit some or all of the programming of a parent station. According to the agency, these stations often serve viewers in predominantly rural and underserved areas.

Under previous rules, when a satellite station was transferred to another owner, the new owner had to seek reauthorization by submitting the same level of documentation as required for an initial authorization.

Going forward, however, new owners can qualify for a more streamlined authorization process by certifying that the underlying circumstances supporting the satellite's existing authorization have not materially changed and then presenting a copy of the station's most recent existing FCC authorization. Parties that object to a reauthorization request can file a petition to deny.

Broadcasters including Nexstar Media Group Inc. and Gray Television Inc. have widely supported streamlining the authorization process. In previous comments filed with the FCC, the National Association of Broadcasters said the commission's proposal would "significantly reduce the time and transaction costs associated with assigning and transferring TV satellite stations" and therefore directly benefit small broadcasters and those in underserved areas.