Sinclair’s Ownership Challenge Stays in Ninth Circuit

Federal Appeals Court for the District of Columbia rejects Sinclair Broadcast Group's request to move challenge to FCC’s ownership rules.

Sinclair Broadcast Group's challenge to the Federal Communications Commission's ownership rules will have to be in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, for now at least.

The Federal Appeals Court for the District of Columbia rejected the broadcast group's request that it immediately step in.

The FCC voted in December to leave rules in place that allow ownership of two TV stations in a market only if at least eight independent voices remain (the so-called eight-voices test).

Sinclair, which challenged that limit in the D.C. Court in 2002, went back to that court after the FCC’s December vote, arguing that the commission neither justified the rules nor threw them out, as the D.C. Court asked in its 2002 decision in the case. Sinclair asked the court to issue a writ of mandamus -- essentially an order to obey the court -- telling the FCC to stop enforcing those limits.

But the D.C. Court said Sinclair’s petition belonged in the Ninth Circuit, where all of the challenges to the FCC's December vote have been referred, and that rather than relating to the D.C. Court's 2002 decision, the Sinclair challenge was more properly a challenge of the FCC's quadrennial regulatory review.

It was that review, plus a remand of its 2003 rule change, that the FCC was addressing in the Dec. 18 vote.

The cases may not stay in the Ninth Circuit, however, with broadcasters and activists both weighing in this week to try to have them moved to other courts, according to one of the parties planning to ask for a change of venue.