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Media Ownership Rules Teed UpIn Court, Again

Media Access Project's
Andrew Schwartzman will argue for the Prometheus Radio Project in this week's
oral argument on the FCC's 2007 media ownership rule change.

Argument is being held
tomorrow (Feb. 24) in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, the
same court that stayed the initial media ownership deregulatory changes eight
years ago.

The court is hearing
challenges from groups Prometheus, Consumers Union and others which argue the
FCC went too far in 2007 by loosening the ban on newspaper-broadcast cross
by broadcasters and newspapers who argue the FCC should have removed the ban
altogether and loosened other rules

The FCC is independently
reviewing those rules again to see if it needs to make any changes, and had
asked the court to hold off on a decision until it could weigh in again, suggesting
it could come to a different conclusion from the members of the 2007 FCC, only
two of which remained. But the court lifted a years-long stay on enforcement of
the 2007 rules last March and got the briefing schedule/oral argument ball

An FCC spokesman said
that associate general counsel Jacob Lewis will argue the case. On behalf of
the deregulatory side-newspapers and broadcasters-- there will be a series of
lawyers arguing various parts of the case, with Virginia Seitz of
Sidley & Austin said to be handling much of the heavy lifting, according to
someone familiar with the lawyer lineup. Each side will get a half-hour, with
the FCC getting a full hour to defend itself.

The FCC's media ownership
rules have been in a state of flux since at least 2003, when the same Third
Circuit stayed enforcement of then FCC Chairman Michael Powell's deregulatory
rule changes and remanded them back to the FCC for a second look. Prometheus
had challenged them then, too.

The FCC's 2007 decision did
not reinstate any of those Powell changes, and only loosened the
newspaper-broadcast cross ownership ban--the Powell changes included
lifting the ban altogether. But that, too, was challenged and those rules
stayed until last year, when the court said it was time get moving.