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Media Ownership Challenge Moved To Third Circuit

The court that blocked the FCC's media ownership rule changes back in 2003 will get a crack at its most recent change--loosening the newspaper-broadcast crossownership rule, which the commission did last fall to try to wrap up a remand of the rules ordered by the Third Circuit.

According to a notification issued by the court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to consolidate the challenges to the latest FCC media ownership rule change and move them to the Third Circuit. The Media Alliance  had sought the move, arguing the Third Circuit should have jurisdication anyway since it was the court that remanded the rules back to the FCC for changes/justifications.

Not surprisingly, at the same time the Ninth Circuit denied the motions by broadcasters to transfer the case to the D.C. Circuit, which is considered more friendly to its arguments.

The Ninth Circuit said the decision was final and "no motions for reconsideration, modification, or clarification" would be entertained.

There were a couple dozen appeals to different courts after the FCC's Dec. 18 vote. Some were by broadcasters and the newspaper industry saying it was not deregulatory enough and others from anti-consolidation groups saying any more deregulation was unjustifiied.

Martin had called it a relatively minor change that might help to "forestall erosion of local news coverage" and only loosens the rules where there are many voices and competition. He also said it was all the broadcast deregulation that was justified. But the decision was met with criticism from Capitol Hill over how Chairman Kevin Martin had chosen to announce the rule change—in the New York Times—and a bill was introduced to block the rule change in Congress.

The Ninth Circuit had won the lottery--literally--to have the cases consolidated in that court, but decided to grant the change of venue pushed by anti-consolidation activists.

Briefs to the Ninth Circuit are suspended; briefs to the Third Circuit will likely not be filed until early next year and a decision not expected out until spring at the earliest.