FCC, Broadcasters Strike Back Against Media Ownership Challenge

An "On Air" sign signals live recording outside a studio. Photographer: Kostas Tsironis/Bloomberg

• Rule relaxation won’t hurt diversity, agency and allies say

• Advocacy groups seek clear definition of who qualifies for diversity programs

The Federal Communications Commission and a group of broadcasters asked a federal appeals court Feb. 2 not to halt the agency’s relaxation of broadcast ownership limits.

The FCC argued that it has sufficiently demonstrated its ownership rule changes won’t stifle diversity of voices in the broadcast industry, in a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in a challenge by advocacy groups.

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. and the National Association of Broadcasters, an industry trade group, argued in their own filing that the advocacy groups looking to block the rule changes lack standing to contest them.

Two advocacy groups—Prometheus Radio Project and Media Mobilizing Project—Jan. 25 filed an emergency petition with the Third Circuit asking it to halt the FCC’s action.

The FCC’s order eases longstanding limits on any company’s ability to own multiple TV stations or any combination of a TV station, radio station, and newspaper in a single market. The order will take effect Feb. 7 if the court doesn’t grant a stay.

Prometheus and Media Mobilizing have argued that the rule changes would allow media giants to strengthen their hold on the markets where they operate, crowding out local and diverse voices. They’ve asked the Third Circuit to force the FCC to come up with a clear definition of “eligible entity”—the term the agency uses for companies and individuals that qualify for FCC programs intended to enhance media diversity—before the agency rules go into effect.

The case is In re Prometheus Radio Project, 3d Cir., opposition filed 2/2/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kyle Daly in Washington at kdaly@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Roger Yu at ryu@bloomberglaw.com