Washington

Prometheus Challenges FCC Ownership Rule Decision

Says JSA decision was arbitrary and capricious; courts will likely have to hold lottery to pick venue 5/30/2014 02:30:00 PM Eastern

Prometheus Radio Project is suing the FCC over its latest attempt at resolving a congressionally-mandated media ownership rule review, including challenging its decision to limit joint sales agreements (JSAs) as arbitrary and capricious.

Prometheus filed its challenge with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which remanded the FCC's old media ownership rules back to the commission after Prometheus challenged the FCC's initial efforts to loosen its ownership rules back in 2002.

The National Association of Broadcasters also plans to sue the FCC over the JSA move, but it will be in the D.C. circuit. With challenges in both circuits, the courts will likely have to hold a lottery to decide where the challenges will be consolidated.

Prometheus is challenging the Wheeler FCC's decision to combine the 2010 and 2014 quadrennial reviews into a single review, which won't be completed until 2016. At the same time the commission voted—in a split decision—to limit JSAs.

Prometheus argues that the FCC was arbitrary and capricious in not addressing whether to attribute sharing aggreements. And while the FCC did adopt the limit on JSAs, making those of over 15% of a stations weekly ad time attributable under ownership limits, it did not explain why 15% is the appropriate threshold for TV (as it already is for radio).

Prometheus argues that is arbitrary and capricious, as was its decision to attribute JSAs but not other types of sharing aggreements, as was its decision not to require disclosure of SSAs—Prometheus had sought that in comments on the ownership item.

NAB is arguing that the FCC should not be limiting either JSAs or SSAs, but it won't be the first time the FCC has been challenged by both sides of the media ownership argument over the same decision.  

Prometheus also takes issue with the fact that the FCC has yet to comply with the Third Circuit's order to justify or modify the FCC's method of boosting minority ownership, or propose new measures to do so.

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