Responses roll in to Third Circuit ruling


The latest chapter of the never-ending story – the attempt of the FCC to change media ownership rules – has been written, and it assures that the story will once again be kicked forward, as portions of the FCC’s earlier attempts have been remanded for further consideration. The NAB is holding out hope for modest rule changes, and at least two watchdogs are claiming victory, as is FCC Commissioner Michael Copps (pictured).

RBR-TVBR reported that it’s back to the drawing board for the attempted liberalization of broadcast-print cross-ownership and rules designed to foster minority and female ownership via encouraging small business opportunity. The remanded portions of the FCC proceedings will become part of the 2010 quadrennial review. We can’t help but note with some amusement that it’s 2011 already. Further, this proceeding dates back to the Fall of 2002, or further, in some cases.

NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton said, “There have been sweeping changes in the media landscape since most of the broadcast ownership rules were adopted decades ago. NAB believes that modest reform of rules to allow free and local broadcasters to compete successfully in a universe of national pay TV and radio platforms is warranted.”

Andrew Jay Schwartzman, Senior Vice President and Policy Director of Media Access Project, was one of those claiming victory. He said, “We won on almost every point. This decision is a vindication of the public’s right to have a diverse media environment. The FCC majority knew that its effort to allow more media concentration was politically and legally unworkable, so it tried to end-run the procedural protections that are designed to give the public the right to participate in agency proceedings. It was disappointing that FCC Chairman Genachowski chose to defend his predecessor’s erroneous action, but now that the Court has directed the FCC to make sure the public is not ignored, we can look forward to having a right to meaningful participation as the FCC looks at these questions again.”

Corie Wright, policy counsel of Free Press, also weighed in, saying, ““Today’s decision is a sweeping victory for the public interest. In rejecting the arguments of the industry and exposing the FCC’s failures, the court wisely concluded that competition in the media – not more concentration – will provide Americans with the local news and information they need and want.”

Copps has been a long-time and extremely vocal foe of media consolidation, and was more than ready to take a victory lap. “This decision is a huge victory for the millions of Americans who have gone on record demanding a richer and more diverse media. The Third Circuit has brought into clear focus the shortfalls of two previous FCCs on media ownership and their lackluster performances in encouraging more minority and female ownership of our broadcast outlets. I am pleased that the 2008 newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule, which would have opened the door to more consolidation and less news, has now been returned to the Commission. The rule and the process that brought it forth were highly inimical to media democracy.