NAB Briefs Court on Media Ownership Ills

Joins other broadcasters in opening salvo against ownership rules

Broadcasters have filed their latest salvo in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia against the FCC's media ownership rule decision, which they say was illegally arbitrary and capricious.

That came in the form of a lengthy court brief in which the National Association of Broadcasters, Nextar and Howard Stirk Holdings argue that the FCC evaded its obligation by rolling the unfinished 2010 ownership review into a 2014 proceeding that won't be done until 2016. They argue the FCC had a statutory responsibility to make a decision on whether existing rules limiting station ownership were still necessary.

They also take issue with the FCC's decision as part of that review to make most TV joint sales agreements attributable as ownership interests, pointing out that while the FCC said it could not reach any decisions about existing rules, it could decide to create a new ownership rule.

The broadcasters also say the FCC refused to consider the public interest benefits of JSA's.

"The Commission expressly refused to consider the public interest benefits of JSAs in promulgating the JSA Rule. Declaring such evidence 'not relevant,' the Commission said it would consider those public interest issues later, in the 2014 quadrennial review," they told the court. "While postponing the public interest analysis, the Commission nonetheless required that non-compliant JSAs be unwound within two years—thus effectively forcing broadcasters to dissolve their JSAs before the Commission ever considers whether such arrangements serve the public interest or whether the local television ownership rule itself is still justifiable."

Prometheus Radio Project is also challenging the FCC decision, but arguing it was insufficiently regulatory. Prometheus asked the court to move the case to the Third Circuit, which ruled on the FCC's proposed rule changes over a decade ago, but the broadcasters say that should not happen.