FCC: Reject appeal of duopoly limits

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A three-judge panel was correct to retain limits on TV duopolies while the
Federal Communications Commission carries out a court-ordered rewrite of the
restrictions, agency lawyers said Tuesday.

The lawyers' comments were filed with the court in opposition to Sinclair
Broadcast Group Inc.'s request for a rehearing. Sinclair asked the entire lineup of the
Federal Appeals Court in Washington, D.C., to rehear the case, which was one in a
string of court decisions forcing the FCC to revamp nearly all of its media-ownership rules.

A panel of the court in April upheld the FCC's authority to limit where TV
duopolies operate. But the judges also found that the FCC had not justified its test for determining eligible markets. The court took particular aim at the
inconsistency between the duopoly threshold, which considers only the number of
TV stations in a market, and the threshold for permitting cross-ownership of radio
and TV outlets in a market, which counts newspapers and cable, as well as
broadcast outlets.

Given that the judges upheld duopoly restrictions in general, the only
provision that could be vacated is the measure permitting duoplies in large
markets.

"Vacating the exception alone would have accomplished little, leaving the
rule more restrictive than necessary," the FCC said.

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