Broadcasters ask Supreme Court to overturn ownership rules

December 8, 2011

The NAB has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow a single media company or organization to own newspapers and television and radio stations in urban markets. Current rules prohibit such monopolistic ownership.

In a petition filed this week, the broadcasters argued that the high court should overturn a Third Circuit decision from last summer that left most of the FCC's media ownership regulations intact. The broadcasters said allowing the ownership of multiple news outlets in the same market helps improve the bottom line of the companies.

"By harming local television stations all over the country, the duopoly rule also directly harms the public," the petition said. "When a station struggles financially or ceases to operate, it loses its ability to provide the news and public affairs programming on which members of the public rely. But placing stations under common ownership, resulting in an improvement in financial stability, leads to improved local programming — both in quality and in quantity — of the kind that is critical to viewers."

The broadcaster's petition also said the Third Circuit's decision conflicts with lower court opinions related to broadcast media ownership rules, and asked the court to intervene so it can clarify the regulations.

The NAB said that the Third Circuit was judging the case based on an outdated conception of local media. It noted that broadcasters and newspapers compete for audiences and advertising with cable companies, satellite companies and Internet sites — not just each other.

"Instead of counting only broadcast television stations, the Commission should have considered all outlets that compete for advertising and audiences in local markets," the petition said.

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