The Supreme Court decided on Friday not to hear broadcasters
appeal of the FCC's media ownership rules, clearing the way for the FCC to
complete its congressionally-mandated review of those regs.
The FCC is currently proposing to loosen the newspaper/broadcast
cross-ownership ban, much as it tried to do back in 2007, but that could have
been delayed if the court had agreed to hear challenges to a Third Circuit
decision on those ownership rules.
The High Court was asked to overturn the Third Circuit Court
of Appeals ruling last July, upholding the FCC's 2008 decision not to loosen
the TV duopoly, radio ownership or TV/radio cross-ownership rules, but vacating
the FCC's loosening of the broadcast/newspaper cross-ownership rule for failure
to meet notice and comment requirements.
The National Association of Broadcasters sought appeal on
the grounds that there was a split in the lower courts, while Tribune (joined
by Fox, Sinclair, Clear Channel, Bonneville and the Newspaper Association of
America) and Media General challenged on constitutional grounds in separate
In its petition to the Supremes, NAB argued that a split in
the lower courts needed to be resolved because the D.C. Circuit previously
found that the duopoly rules, which limit how many stations one company can own
in a market, were arbitrary and capricious. The Third Circuit, in its decision
last summer, upheld the rules.
Resolving such circuit splits is one of the reasons the
Supreme Court will hear an appeal.
Tribune et al. and Media General went beyond the procedural
issue to challenge the underpinnings of the FCC's authority to impose ownership
rules at all.
"We're disappointed the Supreme Court declined to
review rules that limit local broadcasters' ability to compete with our
national and multinational pay programming competitors," said NAB spokesman
Dennis Wharton in a statement. "NAB will continue to advocate for modernizing
ownership rules that stem from an era of I
On the other side of the scale was consolidation critic Free
Press. "The media companies' Hail Mary pass has fallen well-short of the mark,"
said senior policy counsel Corie Wright. "The Supreme Court wisely declined to
waste its time reviewing these ill-founded industry attempts to undermine the
FCC's media ownership protections. The constitutionality of these rules is well-settled.
Free Press is pleased -- but not surprised -- that the Court has declined to
hear these baseless challenges."