FCC Grants 30-Day Extension For Cross-Ownership Filings

Broadcasters get extension beyond Oct. 7 deadline.

The FCC has given a group of broadcasters a 30-day extension on the Oct. 7 deadline for filing amendments to their pending requests for a waiver of the FCC's new adjusted newspaper-broadcast crossownership rule, which the commission says went into effect July 9.

The broadcasters were scheduled to buttress their cases for the combos with information due to the FCC Oct. 7 (90 days after the rule change went into effect), but want an extension of the deadline until 90 days after a federal court rules on a number of challenges to that rule change, a decision that likely won't come for many months. But the FCC gave them another 30 days while it considers the request for the longer extension.

The waiver requests predated the rule change and all include combinations of multiple stations and/or newspapers that the FCC said would not have been appropriate to grant "across-the-board," but would instead look at them on a case-by-case basis using the new public interest standards it was applying for requests for newspaper-broadcast combos per the changed rules. Those include showings of impact on diversity of independent voices, particularly news and information.

In their request not to have to file the additional information necessary for that case-by-case review, the broadcasters argued that it was a time-intensive process and that, additionally, the uncertain legal status of the rules leaves unclear “precisely what criteria the Commission ultimately will use to conduct waiver analyses and whether it will be able to apply those factors with reasonable certainty.” 

Arguably, broadcasters have been operating without regulatory certainty about how many stations they can own and where since at least 2003, when the FCC's initial, more deregulatory rule rewrite, was remanded by another federal court.

The group owners involved are Cox (media properties in Atlanta and Dayton), Tribune-Review Publishing (Pittsburgh); Bonneville (Salt Lake City), Scranton Times LP (Wilkes-Barre, PA) and Morris Communications (Amarallo, TX, and Topeka, KN).

According to Andrew Schwartzman of Media Access Project, the two motions to move the media ownership challenge to different courts remain pending in the Ninth Circuit, where the two dozen or so challenges were consolidated. Some media consolidation opponents want it move to the Third Circuit, which remanded the original rule change back to the FCC. Broadcasters want it moved to the D.C. Circuit, which is considered more friendly to its arguments that the FCC did not justify why it loosened instead of lifted the ban.

Schwartzman says the Ninth Circuit decision on the change of venue--it could also decide to keep the case itself--could come any day, but that in any case briefs would not be filed until early next year and a decision would not come out until spring at the earliest.