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Supreme Court Asked to Weigh In on Media Deregulation Decision

Group pressing the court to overturn an appeals court ruling includes FCC, NAB and a group of media companies

The long-standing feud over newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership could be headed to the Supreme Court if the FCC, NAB and a group of media companies have their way.

On April 17, the Federal Communications Commission petitioned the Supreme Court to review the latest decision made by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned many of the commission’s media ownership deregulation decisions made in 2017. At that time the court said the agency “did not adequately consider the effect its sweeping rule changes will have on ownership of broadcast media by women and racial minorities.” Soon after, the National Association of Broadcasters and the FCC joined forces to seek a full-court hearing of the court’s ruling. That request was denied.

[Read: FCC Challenges Court’s Broadcast Dereg Smackdown]

The FCC responded in its April 17 filing that reforms of FCC media ownership rules are not only long overdue but are part of a larger mandate by Congress that the FCC revise or repeal media ownership rules that are no longer necessary.

“It’s unfortunate that the same divided panel of the Third Circuit yet again has blocked the commission’s efforts to modernize our media ownership rules,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, making this decision the latest “obstruction of commission action and congressional intent” over the last 17 years.

The court’s most recent decision continues to freeze in place decades-old ownership restrictions, Pai said, which have outlived their competitive usefulness in the digital age.

“Absent further action by the Supreme Court, broadcasters will continue to be saddled with outdated regulations,” he said. “The Supreme Court’s intervention is necessary to restore the commission’s discretion to regulate in the public interest and modernize media ownership regulation for the digital age.”

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly concurred. “The commission’s efforts for well over a decade to modernize media ownership regulations have been stymied at every turn,” O’Rielly said in a statement. “It’s time to settle this issue and bring our regulations into the twenty-first century.”

The group of media companies that also petitioned the Supreme Court over the Third Circuit’s findings include Bonneville, Connoisseur Media, Fox, News Corp, the News Media Alliance, Nexstar, The Scranton Times and Sinclair Broadcast Group.