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FCC to SCOTUS: Reverse Third Circuit Ruling on Media Ownership Rules

FCC seal
(Image credit: FCC)

WASHINGTON—The FCC wants a full reversal from the Supreme Court on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeal’s ruling on its deregulation of local broadcast ownership rules, which invalidated the order and sent it back to the commission.

The FCC voted in 2017 on deregulation efforts that would eliminate newspaper-broadcast and the radio-TV cross-ownership rules; allow dual station ownership in markets with fewer than eight independent voices on a case-by-case basis; eliminate attribution of joint sales agreement as ownership; and create a diversity incubator program, as well as other diversity mechanism.

A three-judge panel for the Third Circuit Court, however, denied these proposals, saying that the FCC “did not adequately consider the effect its sweeping rule change will have on ownership of broadcast media by women and racial minorities.”

In its official filing with the Supreme Court, the FCC’s main argument is that the Third Circuit has long been blocking the FCC’s efforts to repeal or modify rules that it believes were no longer in the public interest.

The FCC says Congress has directed the commission to review ownership rules every four years to determine whether they are still relevant and if any need to be modified. However, the filing claims that the Third Circuit has “thwarted’ such efforts over the last 17 years.

In regards to this latest proposal, the FCC says “the panel majority did not question the agency’s findings that the restrictions’ original competition and viewpoint-diversity rationales no longer justified their retention. It nevertheless vacated the revised rules solely on the ground that the agency had not adequately analyzed the rules’ likely effect on minority and female ownership of broadcast stations.”

This goes against the established principles of judicial deference, according to the FCC, and as a result keeps these outdated regulations in place against the best interests of broadcast markets.

The NAB filed its own comments with the Supreme Court this week in support of the FCC’s case.

Ultimately, the FCC simply concluded that the Supreme Court should reverse the Third Circuit Court’s order.

The full FCC filing is available online