The FCC has weighed in with the Supreme Court in defense of its order deregulating local broadcast ownership and in opposition to a lower court's invalidation of that order.
The crux of the FCC's argument is that the lower court repeatedly prevented the commission from repealing or modifying rules it had concluded were no longer in the public interest.
The FCC is under a congressional directive to make that public interest determination and eliminate/adjust rules that don't pass muster.
The FCC, joined by broadcasters, petitioned the High Court to reinstate the FCC's 2017 local ownership deregulation decision, which was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which concluded the FCC had not sufficiently gauged the deregulation's impact on media ownership diversity.
The National Association of Broadcasters also filed its brief this week in support of deregulation and the FCC.
In its brief submitted Nov. 17, the FCC said the Third Circuit decision "flouts well-established principles of judicial deference to the Commission’s reasonable policy judgments and freezes in place outdated regulations, to the detriment of broadcast markets nationwide."
It said the court rejected the deregulatory moves not based on any challenge to the FCC's conclusions about competition that drove those decisions, but on "the bare possibility that the challenged orders might affect minority and female ownership levels in the broadcast industry."
In the process, said the FCC, the court "impermissibly" substituted its judgment for that of the FCC.
The result, it said, was that "broadcast markets nationwide remain saddled with outdated regulations that prevent struggling traditional outlets from entering transactions that might allow them to retain economic vitality."
The FCC's advice to the court, respectfully: "The judgment of the court of appeals should be reversed."
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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.