The Government Accountability Office dinged the FCC in report released today for failing to collect enough information to judge TV station joint-operation deals. The FCC wants to tighten restrictions to keep stations from combining ad sales or newsgathering resources. Critics of the deals say that broadcasters often use them to do an end-run around rules that bar a company from owning multiple stations in a market, thereby weakening competition and narrowing the range of local voices. Station owners counter that deals help by making it possible for financially weak stations to stay in business.

But the FCC has “not collected data or completed a review to understand how broadcaster agreements are being used and the potential impacts with respect to its media ownership rules and the corresponding policy goals of competition, localism, and diversity,” the GAO says. (more…)