Keep Media Cross-Ownership Ban, Groups Ask Appeals Court

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By: E&P Staff

Even as newspapers and broadcasters gird for a fight over media cross-ownership as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) begins its mandatory quadrennial review of media ownership laws, a coalition of public interest organizations returned to a U.S. appellate court Monday seeking to overturn a 2008 FCC rule that loosened the ban on same-market common ownership of a newspaper and broadcast station.

Media Access Project (MAP), the Institute for Public Representation (IPR), Free Press and other groups field a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit today, arguing the FCC’s 2008 rule was unreasonable and unlawful.

In that 2008 rule change, passed in party-line vote by the commission’s then-Republican majority, newspapers in the top markets were permitted to also own a smaller-rated television or radio station.

In an announcement of their brief Monday, the groups argued that the rule was “marred by procedural irregularities, ambiguous provisions, and loopholes, all of which counter the rule’s stated purpose to increase diversity in the marketplace of ideas.”

They also argued the FCC improperly neglected to consider the effect of changing broadcast ownership rules on minority or female ownership.

“The Commission’s 2008 cross-ownership rule is fraught with loopholes that further limit diversity in our media environment,” Andrew Jay Schwartzman, MAP’s vice president and senior policy director, said in a prepared statement. “Given the Commission’s aims to increase diversity, the enactment of this rule was the antithesis of reasoned decision-making.”

Free Press policy counsel Corie Wright said the rules “have opened a back door to consolidation that could undermine these values.” 

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