U.S. Court of Appeals schedules Wednesday oral argument on stay of FCC media ownership rules

The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has scheduled an oral argument to consider whether the FCC’s media ownership rules should be stayed while the court considers challenges to the FCC’s media ownership order.

The argument will be held in Philadelphia this Wednesday, September 3, at 10 a.m. That’s one day before the new rules are set to go into effect. The FCC adopted the order on June 2, released it on July 2, and published it in the Federal Register on August 5. The rules, if they are not stayed, they go into effect thirty days after they were published in the Federal Register, which is Sept. 4.

A number of broadcast industry organizations have challenged the rules in court. On August 6, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Media General, and the Network Alliance of Station Affiliates (NASA) filed in the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. NAB stated it will challenge the local radio and local television rules, the network affiliates will challenge the increase in the national television cap, and Media General is challenging the FCC’s decision not to repeal the newspaper-broadcast rule in its entirety.

On August 13, three public interest organizations filed petitions in three different circuits both challenging the FCC’s decision and asking the courts to stay the new rules.

The National Council of Churches, represented by Shelby Green of Pace University working in conjunction with the Minority and Media Telecommunications Council, filed in the Second Circuit in New York; the Media Alliance, represented by the Georgetown Institute of Public Representation, filed in the 9th Circuit in California; and the Media Access Project's attorneys, assisted by Spear Wilderman a private firm in Philadelphia, represent Prometheus Radio Project in the Third Circuit.

In addition, on August 15, three networks—Viacom, Fox, and NBC—filed in the D.C. Circuit challenging the FCC’s decision. The networks did not state which rule(s) they will challenge. Under court rules, because parties filed in multiple circuits, the court conducted a lottery to select one circuit. The Third Circuit was selected by a lottery from among the circuits on August 19, and all pending cases were transferred there.

Subsequently, the FCC and the networks have opposed public interest requests to stay the rules. In addition the networks asked the Third Circuit to transfer the case back to the D.C. Circuit, and the FCC supported that request. The timing of the court proceeding is not certain. The court could rule as early as September 4 on the request for stay, but it could wait longer. It also has the option to create another solution as it sees fit.

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