NAB to Supremes: Reinstate Ownership Dereg

(Image credit: NAB)

The National Association of Broadcasters has told the Supreme Court that the Third Circuit has been trying for most of two decades to regulate media ownership when the decision whether to regulate it or deregulate it is the FCC's job. It said the Supreme Court should restore the FCC's latest effort to deregulate broadcast ownership.

That came in a brief filed with the High Court this week asking the Supremes to reinstate the FCC's media ownership deregulation decision, which the Third Circuit invalidated.

Related: Supremes to Hear Broadcast Dereg Case

Back in April, broadcasters and newspaper publishers joined with the FCC to petition the Supreme Court to review the Third Circuit decision vacating most of the FCC's 2017 effort under chairman Ajit Pai to deregulate broadcast ownership, including by eliminating the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules.

That decision came in response to the commission's quadrennial review of its ownership rules to determine if they were still in the public interest as well as to an earlier Third Circuit remand of a previous deregulatory effort.

NAB said the lower court had overstepped its authority. The court threw out most of the media ownership dereg because it said the FCC had not taken into account its impact on media diversity.

Echoing the FCC's petition, media petitioners said that outdated ownership rules remain in force because a divided panel of the court has prevented the FCC from implementing "necessary adjustments to its ownership rules" that the FCC concluded would serve the public interest.

The FCC and Third Circuit have been sparring over successive attempts to deregulate broadcasting for most of two decades. This is the first time the Supremes have gotten involved.

In this week's brief, NAB said: "The Third Circuit’s decision was not based on the rules’ perceived merits or any defect in the competition analysis Congress directed the FCC to perform; in fact, no party disputed any aspect of that analysis or the FCC’s overarching conclusion that the rules no longer served the public interest in light of competition. Instead, the Third Circuit’s decision was based solely on a textual policy concerns about the gender and racial makeup of broadcast station owners." 

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.