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DOJ Requests More Time to File Cert on Media Ownership

The Solicitor General asked the Supreme Court for another 30 days to file a writ of certiorari to review the Third Circuit Appeals Court decision on media ownership rules. The current deadline for filing a cert petition is Jan. 3, 2005. The request, made on behalf of the FCC, seeks to extend the filing window to Jan. 31, 2005.

The application for the extension contains a summary of how media ownership rules made it to the doorstep of SCOTUS, and illustrates how the Third Circuit ruling contradicted the directives of Congress and previous court decisions. It points out that in the 1996 Telecom Act, Congress directed the FCC to relax media ownership rules. Then in 2002, Fox won a D.C. Circuit court battle to force the FCC to revisit the national audience reach limit, which was 35 percent at the time. Sinclair Broadcast Group also successfully challenged the local TV ownership rule.

The D.C. Circuit agreed with Fox and Sinclair that the FCC had not adequately justified the ownership limitations, and ordered it to do so. When, in July, 2003, the commission issued revised ownership rules reflecting the D.C. Circuit directives, they were immediately attacked, both by Congress and by interest groups seeking to maintain ownership restrictions. By virtue of a lottery, the legal challenges were heard in the Third Circuit court in Philadelphia, which denied the FCC's motion to transfer the case back to the D.C. Circuit. The Third Circuit subsequently remanded the revised ownership rules for "additional justification and modification."

"In consultation with the FCC, the Acting Solicitor General is considering whether to file a petition for a writ of certiorari in this case," the application stated. "An additional extension of time is requested to permit further consideration within the government of the practical and legal ramifications of the decision of the court of appeals...."