The court portion of the battle over the loosened FCC cross-ownership rules has taken a major step forward. A multiplicity of lawsuits, attacking the FCC action as being too little or not enough as well as bringing other issues into play, were filed in a multiplicity of courts. Now they are all headed to the West Coast and the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, which may bundle them up and send them back East.
According to The Deal, the DC Circuit finally fired its collection of documents over to the Ninth, allowing all of the various lawsuits to be consolidated into one proceeding.
The DC Circuit is considered to be one of two expert courts when media issues are on the table. The other is the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, which was responsible for the Prometheus decision which remanded the earlier 6/2/03 FCC ownership rulemaking, directly leading to the much more modest attempt at change approved by Chairman Kevin Martin’s FCC 12/18/07. The Ninth could send the case right back to DC or Philadelphia. Those who think the FCC did not go far enough would prefer DC, while anti-consolidation parties would prefer Philadelphia again.
The FCC’s December ruling opened up the possibility of broadcast/newspaper cross-ownership in the top 20 DMAs, along with the possibility of acquiring a waiver to create such a combination in smaller markets. Some have seen that as a cave-in to media conglomerates; others think that many of the 6/2/03 changes, particularly making it easier to form television duopolies, were justifiable, and that cross-ownership should be legal everywhere.
RBR/TVBR observation: So it’s taken half a year just to get the objections to the 12/18/07 ruling collected in one place, only perhaps to be moved again? This started out as a biennial review of ownership regulation. It’s already been upgraded to quadrennial. By the time this is finally resolved, we will not be surprised if we headed for the centennial review. As a reminder, Congress is still sitting on a Resolution of Disapproval for the FCC action, just in case we need another delay.