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FCC Asks Appeals Court to Reconsider Stay of New Radio Ownership Rules

FCC Asks Appeals Court to Reconsider Stay of New Radio Ownership Rules

The FCC is asking a federal appeals court in Philadelphia to reconsider its decision last year to stay the commission’s new media ownership rules, which were passed last June. The FCC has asked a panel of judges on the court to re-hear portions of the case and to lift a stay so the commission can implement its new radio ownership rules.
In its petition, the FCC states “With the stay in effect, the commission must continue to define all radio markets using the flawed contour-overlap methodology, which this court agreed the commission may replace. The commission also must exclude non-commercial radio stations when assessing the radio market, even though this court upheld the commission’s determination that such stations are active competitors that should be counted.”
The new rules, blocked from implementation for more than a year, would use Arbitron Radio Metros to determine what stations are in a market; count non-commercial stations in its reflection of how many total stations are in a market; and attribute JSAs toward ownership counts in determining compliance.
The court required the FCC to change or further justify its numerical radio ownership limits, the tiered system that allows for one company to own up to 8 stations in a market. The FCC says in its petition that this is illogical because the limits wouldn’t change if the new rules went into affect.
The new market definition may make the radio limits “more” restrictive, says the FCC in its petition, and while including noncoms into a market station count may have an “indeterminate” effect on consolidation, the JSA attribution rule makes the commission’s ownership rules more restrictive, “because, without JSA attribution, the ownership rules would fail to take into account a broker’s economic interest in a radio station.”
A majority of a three-judge panel on the court in June sent most of the FCC’s new media ownership rules back to the commission to be justified.
The June decision upheld the right of the commission to adopt ownership limitations on broadcast stations, but rebuked the agency for not sufficiently justifying its numerical ownership limits for each of television, media cross-ownership and radio.
The decision criticized the commission for assuming that each media interest of the same type makes an equal contribution to diversity and competition in a local market.
The court suggested that the specific market share of various media must be taken into account in fashioning numerical restrictions on ownership.
At the time, FCC Chairman Michael Powell said it was the second time a court has rejected the FCC’s efforts to set numerical limits for media ownership.