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NAB Suing FCC Over Ownership Rule Review

Had signaled the lack of regulatory relief was arbitrary and capricious

This article originally appeared in Broadcasting & Cable.

The National Association of Broadcasters is taking the FCC to court once again over its quadrennial media ownership regulatory review, the association has confirmed. Look for the filing within a week.

“Broadcasters want to compete in the digital age and continue being a trusted source for local news and information, but FCC rules need to reflect 2016 and not the 1960s,” said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. “It defies belief that the FCC allows AT&T/DirecTV and Charter/Time Warner mergers while barring two Topeka TV stations from combining, or a radio station from buying a newspaper.”

NAB signaled even before FCC chairman Tom Wheeler circulated the proposal that it was likely headed to court, saying that retaining the newspaper-crossownership ban, as the FCC did yet again, was an arbitrary and capricious violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. It has since gotten direction from the board to file suit.

Related: FCC Republicans Slam Quadrennial Order

It has long said that it makes no sense to limit local TV station ownership in an era with video competition from cable and satellite and now the web that fills those markets with competition.

NAB is filing its appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the principal court of jurisdiction for FCC decisions. Prometheus Radio, which is also challenging the rules, filed in the Third Circuit.

The FCC released the final text of its order Aug. 25, in which it did not lift or loosen local ownership regs or scrap the crossownership ban and reinstated the joint sales agreement-tightening it instituted in March 2014.

The NAB challenge — it said immediately following the decision that it was inexplicable — has to be filed by next Monday, according to an attorney familiar with the process, so it can meet the deadline for deciding which court will hear the appeal. The Third Circuit is the most likely since it remanded the JSA decision and was the court to originally stay the 2003 media ownership rule change that began the process.

The Third Circuit vacated the FCC’s JSA order back in May, saying the FCC improperly enacted the rule, having done so before completing the quadrennial review to gauge the impact of its media ownership regs on the industry.

The court said nothing in its decision prevented the FCC from reinstating the JSA change in its quadrennial review if it found it to be in the public interest. The FCC did just that in its completed quadrennial, which a divided FCC voted to approve July 12.