The controversial new media ownership rules are back in the FCC's court. The Supreme Court this week declined to review appeals filed by several broadcasters and citizen groups. A lower court had remanded the bulk of the rules back to the commission for better numerical and other justification.
The high court offered no explanation for declining to take the case.
Commissioners passed rules that eased ownership limits in 2003 but those were put on hold by a federal appeals court; the court told the agency it needed better justification for the numerical limits. If implemented, the FCC's rules would have increased the number of households a single television corporation could reach with its broadcasts, and the number of media outlets a company could own in a market.
NAB declined comment on the development.
"We aren't treating the Supreme Court's decision as an end in and of itself, but it does add fuel to our burning desire to make more room for local voices in our corporate-dominated media landscape," said Hannah Sassaman, project organizer for the Prometheus Radio Project, another petitioner against the rules.
The onus is back on the commission to re-craft the ownership rules, yet the agency only has four members now; evenly divided between two Republicans and two Democrats. New FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said he was looking forward to working with all of his colleagues as they re-evaluate the rules.
Commissioner Michael Copps welcomed the decision, saying the FCC has a "fresh opportunity" to develop rules that encourage localism, competition and diversity in media.
"This decision is a rare victory for the public over some of the most powerful corporations in America," said Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein. "We better get it right this time. We need to be very careful because once we allow greater media concentration, we can't put the toothpaste back in the tube."
Mindful of the "backlash" from 2003, Adelstein said the FCC needs to involve the public and Congress more as it reviews this issue. He called for more public hearings to be held in other parts of the country on the issue.
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