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NAB asks Supreme Court to review ownership restrictions

The National Association of Broadcasters Monday filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking an appeal of lower court rulings and relief from FCC rules restricting the number of radio and television stations a single entity may own in the same city.

The petition “raises fundamental questions” about the FCC’s “disregard of the commands of Congress” regarding ownership of radio and television stations. Congress directed the commission in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to ease ownership restrictions and eliminate others and review its media ownership rules every two years.

According to the court filing, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit wrongly endorsed the FCC’s decision to re-regulate local radio markets to levels “Congress found too restrictive” in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and denied “the undisputed benefits” of common ownership and deregulation to small and medium-sized local television stations.

The petition asks the Supreme Court to grant review because “the FCC has refused to implement the clear commands set forth in Section 202 of the 1996 Act.” It also claimed the FCC actions harm local broadcasting and that the Third Circuit’s decision upholding the FCC “is in significant tension” with U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit decision in the Sinclair Broadcast Group v. FCC case, which found that “Section 202(h) carries with it a presumption in favor of repealing of modifying the ownership rules.”

According to the filing, the case raises “critically important” questions about the FCC’s “disregard” for congressional commands in its 1996 Telecommunications Act related to ownership of local radio and TV stations. It also contends that a redefinition of what constitutes a local radio market, which was upheld by the Third Circuit Court violates the act. Likewise, the “Top -4” restriction on local TV ownership, which refers a commission prohibition on common ownership of two stations ranked among the top four in a local market, upheld by the Third Circuit Court violates section 202 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

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