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Gray TV to Supremes: FCC Got It Right on Broadcast Dereg

Gray TV has filed an amicus brief at the Supreme Court backing the FCC's appeal of a federal court's smackdown of its broadcast deregulation decision.

The Solicitor General of the United States, on behalf of the FCC, last month asked the Supreme Court to review a U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision overturning most of its media ownership deregulation. The FCC hammered the circuit for what the commission suggested was serial obstruction of what a majority of FCC commissioners had concluded was in the public interest.

(Image credit: Gray Television)

Related: Media Companies Seek Review of Broadcast Dereg Decision

The FCC has concluded that allowing broadcasters more ownership flexibility in a market crowded with competing content providers serves that public interest, and told the Supreme Court that the Third Circuit's obstruction of that effort "[has] saddled broadcast markets nationwide with outdated rules that the FCC has repeatedly concluded—and that the panel has acknowledged—are preventing struggling traditional outlets from entering transactions that would allow them to retain economic vitality."

Gray is definitely on the same page.

"With Americans able to consume media from so many new sources unavailable in past eras, television audiences in small and mid-sized markets have fragmented while the costs of producing local news have exploded, saddling television stations with more expenses and less income," Gray told the Supreme Court. "But the FCC’s long-outdated ownership rules, adopted at a different time to regulate a different broadcast market, prevent these new business models from achieving their full promise."

Gray told the court it was imperative that it hear the FCC appeal, reverse the Third Circuit, and allow the FCC's "media modernization" to proceed.

Back in September, a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit threw out the FCC's fall 2017 decision to: 1) eliminate the newspaper-broadcast and the radio-TV cross-ownership rules; 2) allow dual station ownership in markets with fewer than eight independent voices after that duopoly created an opportunity for ownership of two of the top four stations in a market on a case-by-case basis (the FCC was not calling it a waiver); 3) eliminate attribution of joint sales agreements as ownership; 4) create a diversity incubator program; and 5) create some diversity mechanisms to address the court's long-standing concern.

The court said the agency "did not adequately consider the effect its sweeping rule changes will have on ownership of broadcast media by women and racial minorities," something the court had said in a previous media ownership ruling that the FCC had to do next time around.

Broadcasters and the FCC sought en banc review of that panel decision, which means the whole Third Circuit would review the panel decision, but the court denied that appeal, sending them to the Supreme Court to make their case.