NAB Joins FCC in Challenging Third Circuit

The National Association of Broadcastershas joined with the FCC in seeking a full court hearing of the U.S. Court of Appeals' three-judge panel decision vacating most of the FCC's broadcast dereg decision.

Broadcasters had backed the FCC's deregulatory decision and would have preferred even more deregulation.

Broadcasters are arguing that the panel was wrong to reject the FCC's reasonable balancing of its obligation to consider competition with its policy of promoting diversity (the court vacated the dereg because it said the FCC had not sufficiently considered its impact on diversity), and that the FCC had "properly amended its ownership rules based on competitive changes in the marketplace."

The FCC filed its petition earlier in the day Thursday (Nov. 7), but NAB, joined by Nexstar, the News Media Alliance (one of the FCC's deregulatory moves was to eliminate the newspaper-broadcast crossownership rule), and Fox, was not far behind in seeking full court (en banc) review.

"The panel has rejected multiple attempts by the FCC to modernize its media ownership rules for the past 15 years," NAB said Thursday, echoing FCC chair Ajit Pai's complaints about the court, which has been remanding and vacating deregulatory decisions since then FCC chairman Michael Powell, also a Republican, attempted to deregulate broadcast ownership back in 2004.

The court panel ruled on an appeal by Prometheus et al. of the FCC's fall 2017 decision under chairman Ajit Pai to eliminate the newspaper-broadcast and the radio-TV cross-ownership rules; 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); eliminate attribution of joint sales agreements as ownership; create a diversity incubator program; and create some diversity mechanisms to address the court's long-standing concern.

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.