The Wall Street Journal.
In a sharply worded ruling, the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia threatened to toss out the government’s ownership rules altogether if the FCC doesn’t get its effort on track. The opinion came in a broad legal challenge by broadcasters and others to the FCC’s handling of media-ownership rules.
Throwing out the rules would be “the administrative-law equivalent of burning down the house to roast the pig, and we decline to order it,” said the opinion written by Judge Thomas Ambro. “However, we note that this remedy, while extreme, might be justified in the future if the Commission does not act quickly to carry out its legislative mandate.”
The three-judge panel’s ruling is likely to accelerate the FCC’s efforts to update its rules, some of which are 40 years old.
The rules at issue relate to control of local broadcast stations and newspapers. For example, one rule has long prohibited a single individual or company from possessing a daily newspaper and a radio or TV station in the same market.
Some broadcasters ask whether such restrictions still make sense, given that consumers in any location now have access to an array of content via the Internet. On the other side, activists warn against changes that would allow big media companies to amass extensive power.
The FCC is required by Congress to review and update its media-ownership rules every four years, but the last one that the agency completed was in the 2006 cycle. The 2010 and 2014 cycles haven’t been completed, the court noted.
The National Association of Broadcasters said it “could not be more pleased” with the court’s decision. “At long last, this opinion directs the FCC to do its job and adopt broadcast ownership rules that reflect the modern world,” said executive Vice President Dennis Wharton.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Wednesday reiterated his goal to release a comprehensive media-ownership proposal by June 30.