Gray TV: SCOTUS Should Reinstate FCC’s Media Ownership Rules

Gray Television
(Image credit: Gray Television)

ATLANTA—Gray Television has thrown its support behind the FCC in its case for reinstating its proposed media ownership rule updates, filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court for the commission’s case where it seeks to overturn the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

In 2017, the FCC voted 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.

This was ultimately denied by the Third Circuit and sent back to the FCC on the grounds that it “did not adequately consider the effect its sweeping rule change will have on ownership of broadcast media by women and racial minorities.”

Gray TV argues that the FCC was in full compliance with its obligations under the Telecommunications Act of 1996. According to Gray, the law requires the FCC to, first and foremost, consider the effects of marketplace “competition” when modernizing its rules. The Third Circuit ruling, Gray TV writes, “is incorrect because it requires the agency to elevate other policy considerations over the effects of ‘competition.’”

In terms of competition, Gray TV specifically points to the impact low-cost digital media sources have on local news and journalism. The denial of these updated rules subsequently harms small and mid-sized communities who rely on local news.

“Over the last 15 years, the FCC has attempted repeatedly to update its regulations in light of today’s competitive media marketplace, as directed to do so by statute,” Gray TV says. “The FCC, however, has been stymied consistently by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which effectively has frozen the regulatory landscape as it existed in 1941 when the FCC first adopted a ‘one-to-market’ rule and when the media marketplace was enormously different than it is today.”

Gray TV joins the NAB in filing amicus briefs in support of the FCC in its case before the Supreme Court. According to Gray TV, a decision on the case is expected by June 2021.