FCC Cross-Ownership Order Published in Federal Register

Move Triggers 60-Day Window for Court Challenges, 30-Day Window for Petitions of Reconsideration at Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission's order loosening newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules was published in the Federal Register Thursday morning, according to one media activist, who added: "Let the games begin."

That is because the publication triggers the lawsuits and reconsideration petitions that will be filed in opposition to it by those who feel that the FCC did not go far enough and the anti-consolidation groups who argued that there was already too much media consolidation.

Publication also allows Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) to put forward a bill to nullify that decision, which would be a reprise of a similar effort after the FCC voted on a raft of deregulatory rules in 2003. Those rules were remanded by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. It was that remand, and a congressionally mandated periodic rule review, that prompted the FCC’s years-long look at its ownership rules that resulted in the December decision.

The FCC voted Dec. 18 to allow newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership in the top 20 markets, subject to condition, and in smaller markets only in special circumstances, but it took no other deregulatory steps. The 2003 rule revise loosened TV- and radio-ownership caps, as well.

Tribune already took the FCC to court over the rules, but it did so by filing suit against a decision -- which predated that vote -- to give it waivers of the rules in several markets, arguing that the agency did provide it enough regulatory relief.

Activist groups like Media Access Project will file suit against the rule change, arguing that it was too deregulatory.

Publication in the Federal Register triggers a 60-day window for court challenges, as well as a 30-day window for petitions of reconsideration at the FCC. Both are likely, MAP’s Andrew J. Schwartzman said.