Court Fight Likely to Fill Media Coffers

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has declined to weigh in on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s rulings and views on communications issues, which are much in evidence. Others, though, are not as reticent on the conservative judge, who’s well known in communications circles from his prominent role on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which oversees appeals of FCC decisions.

Forces for and against Kavanaugh’s appointment also indicated they’ll soon be spending money on ads backing their beliefs.

Kavanaugh would likely be a vote in favor of the FCC’s 2017 rollback of network neutrality regulations should the current challenge to its deregulatory move go to the high court.

Kavanaugh dissented from the majority in the full D.C. Circuit’s decision not to hear an internet service provider appeal of the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet order. He said the order was unlawful and should have been vacated, citing the Supreme Court “major rules” doctrine that agency decisions of vast “economic and political significance” require clear direction from Congress, direction the FCC did not have on its regulatory authority over net neutrality. The FCC had violated the First Amendment by infringing on the editorial discretion of ISPs, he added.

Liberal View: ‘Disaster’

“Kavanaugh says that net neutrality is unconstitutional” and “he thinks corporations are people, and will put Citizens United on steroids,” according to Demand Progress, which called his nomination a “disaster for everything we care about.”

One of the byproducts of the nomination fight to come will be more money in broadcast and cable coffers as the battle wages in the court of public opinion.

“Brett Kavanaugh is a far-right radical who must be stopped,” Demand Progress said in an email solicitation. “Will you chip in $5 to help launch our emergency campaign to stop him?”

On the other side, Americans for Prosperity committed “seven figures” to paid advertising and grassroots engagement in support of Kavanaugh’s nomination.

An even higher figure also has gotten involved: President Donald Trump.

The Republican National Committee, with the OK of the president, has sent out an email solicitation for contributions toward a six-figure ad campaign buy backing Kavanaugh’s nomination. The RNC said it was part of a Justice Support Fund that Trump had authorized.

Check out Kavanaugh’s take on the FCC’s Title II reclassification of ISPs.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.