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NAB States Ownership Case at High Court

Says FCC can change rules without reviewing impact on minority/female ownership

The National Association of Broadcasters has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let the Federal Communications Commission go ahead with significant changes in its media ownership rules.

This is part of the culmination of a long legal fight. The FCC and the NAB had appealed a lower court ruling blocking the changes, and the Supreme Court recently accepted the case.

Now NAB has filed its opening brief.

[Read: Supremes to Hear Broadcast Dereg Case]

“The Third Circuit Court of Appeals overstepped its authority when it invalidated the FCC order modernizing its local media ownership rules,” the association wrote in a summary. “NAB asked the court to reinstate the FCC’s modernization order and end the Third Circuit’s 16-year assertion of authority over the commission’s media ownership rulemakings.”

The Third Circuit had blocked the commission’s 2017 quadrennial review order. The FCC wants to eliminate the ban on owning a print newspaper and a radio or TV station in the same market; remove restrictions on owning radio stations along with a TV station in a market; revise the rule limiting ownership of TV stations in local markets; overturn an earlier decision involving joint sale of ad time by two TV stations in a market; and reform its approach to “embedded markets.”

At the heart of NAB’s argument is whether the relevant part of the Telecommunications Act requires the FCC to look at statistical evidence or do an in-depth analysis of the effects of the changes on minority and female ownership.

The Telecom Act, NAB said, directs the FCC to “repeal” or “modify” any rule that is no longer “necessary in the public interest as the result of competition.” And it says the FCC did so in its planned rule changes. “Yet the Third Circuit concluded that the commission inadequately considered the effect of those changes on minority and female ownership — even though [the Telecom Act] says nothing about that issue.”

Further, NAB told the court, “The same divided Third Circuit panel has repeatedly elevated its policy concerns over the statutory text and purported to retain jurisdiction over the FCC’s Section 202(h) orders, effectively blocking review by any other court for more than 15 years.”

It called the circuit court’s actions “vastly overbroad,” and said it has “improperly retained jurisdiction” over FCC reviews of the relevant section of the Telecom Act.