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NAB Asks Court to Force FCC’s Quadrennial Hand

“Unfortunately the commission has left us no other option,” says LeGeyt

Accusing the Federal Communications Commission of a “perpetual slow-roll,” the National Association of Broadcasters has asked a court to require the FCC to “expeditiously complete” its 2018 quadrennial review of broadcast ownership rules.

NAB says inaction and delays are now a chronic problem at the FCC.

The commission launched its 2022 review without completing the prior one, and NAB has been complaining vociferously about the situation ever since, calling it both illegal and unfair to conduct a new review in this situation.

More than a year ago, NAB President/CEO Curtis LeGeyt met with Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and other FCC officials to push them to act. He said then that some delay had been understandable, given that an appeal of a separate FCC regulatory rollback had gone to the Supreme Court. But that was settled in early 2021, and in early 2022, LeGeyt said at the time, the FCC needed to wrap things up.

A year later and with the 2022 review process now underway, the NAB has turned to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for help. It asked the court to require the FCC to finish the earlier review within 90 days of a court decision.

“The FCC is required by law to review its broadcast ownership rules every four years and determine whether, in light of competition in the marketplace, they are still in the public interest,” the NAB reiterated in a press announcement late Monday.

“Despite this ongoing statutory requirement, the FCC has completed only one ownership review in the last 15 years, and none since 2017, leaving in place antiquated broadcast-only rules that even predate satellite, cable and the internet.”

The association had signaled its intention to take this step if the FCC didn’t act or respond to NAB’s earlier urgent pleas. “NAB is seeking judicial relief as unfortunately the commission has left us no other option,” LeGeyt said in the announcement.

NAB called the quadrennial delay egregious and said the commission has violated “a crystal-clear legal duty” imposed on it by Congress.

It also told the court that this noncompliance “is part of a disturbing trend. From the time Congress first required periodic review of the broadcast ownership restrictions, the agency has made a habit of sitting on reviews, finishing them late, or skipping them altogether. That pattern has only grown worse over time.”

The commission remains short of a commissioner and thus deadlocked politically, with two Democrats and two Republicans.

[Read the NAB petition (PDF).]