FCC Finds Steckline Contracts “Unreasonable”

The FCC has granted Rocking M Radio‘s request for a declaratory ruling that affiliation agreements two of its stations, KSMM-A-F Liberal, KS, had with Steckline Communications Inc. violated Commission rules.  Rocking M flipped the stations to Spanish language formats and told Steckline that it would no longer carry the English-language Mid-America AG Network and Mid-America News Network syndicated radio programming or commercials, leading Steckline to sue Rocking M for breach of contract.

The Commission ruled that the contracts impermissibly bound Rockin M to carry the programming in perpetuity, thus infringing on the licensee’s ultimate control over programming, although the Commission also noted that damages for canceling an affiliation contract are permitted.  The FCC found the length of the contracts violated the rule against “unreasonably lengthy” brokerage and programming agreements.

Rockin M also brought to the Commission’s attention other deals between Steckline and affiliates that run for 40 years and require affiliates not to change format to anything rendering the Steckline syndicated radio programming inappropriate, and include the right for Steckline to buy additional ad time at fixed rates; the Commission called the provisions “inconsistent with licensees’ obligation to retain independent control over material broadcast on their stations.”

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