Supreme Court reinstates FCC media-ownership reforms, overturns lower court decision blocking repeal of ownership restrictions
1970s-Era Ban on Newspaper/Broadcast Cross-Ownership Restricted Investments in Local News
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C. – The Supreme Court today issued a unanimous decision in Prometheus Radio Project vs FCC, upholding 2017 reforms that streamlined and modernized the Federal Communications Commission’s media cross-ownership rules, including the repeal of a 1970s-era rule that banned the ownership of a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same market.
News Media Alliance President & CEO, David Chavern, stated, “We commend the Supreme Court for reversing the Third Circuit Court’s decision in this case. The cross-ownership ban is a prime example of an outdated regulation that had shackled the newspaper industry for far too long. The repeal of the ban will generate much needed investments and cross-platform synergies that will help sustain local news media at a monumental time in our country’s history when local news is needed more than ever.”
In 2019, the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit invalidated the FCC’s 2017 reforms. Although the FCC’s 2017 order repealed the cross-ownership rule, the Third Circuit’s decision blocked that repeal and froze the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership restriction in place. The Alliance and other industry stakeholders petitioned for Supreme Court review of the Third Circuit’s decision, arguing that the decades old cross-ownership ban, implemented to prevent one information source from being too dominant in a community, no longer applies to today’s diverse media landscape. The Supreme Court granted review last fall, heard oral argument in January, and issued its decision reversing the Third Circuit this morning.
Since 2002, in response to a Congressional mandate to review its ownership rules, the FCC has attempted to change the cross-ownership rule twice, but each time, the Third Circuit blocked that change on unrelated procedural grounds. Ironically, the Court that preserved the rule banning media cross-ownership is the same one that concluded in 2003 that the ban was no longer in the public interest. Today’s unanimous Supreme Court ruling, authored by Justice Kavanaugh, holds that the FCC reasonably considered all relevant factors and evidence in determining that the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule no longer serves the public interest.