Newspapers Sue FCC Over Media Ownership Decision

The trade group representing America's newspapers is suing the FCC over its politically divided decision July 12 not to eliminate the newspaper-broadcast crossownership rules.

Nov. 14 was the deadline to file suit against the FCC's quadrennial media ownership rule review, in which it decided to adopt a waiver policy for failing newspapers but did not eliminate the crossownership prohibition. Actually, the deadline is if you want your choice of venue--in this case the D.C. circuit--to be submitted in the lottery for choosing the venue.

Filing the suit was the News Media Alliance (NMA), formerly the Newspaper Association of America.

Related: NAB Sues FCC Over Quadrennial Review

It argues that the FCC decision is arbitrary and capricious and ignores congressional mandates. NMA said that despite "unambiguous commands" from Congress and "substantial evidence showing that the Newspaper-Broadcast Cross-Ownership rule is antiquated and no longer serves the public interest," the FCC retained the rule with only "minimal changes."

It argues that in the face of that evidence, the FCC's report and order in its overdue resolution of both the 2010 and 2014 congressionally mandated rule reviews was "arbitrary; capricious; an abuse of discretion; otherwise not in accordance with law; contrary to constitutional right, power privilege or immunity; in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations or short of statutory right; without observance of procedure required by law; and unsupported by adequate evidence."

“After 41 years of abiding by a rule that has long outlived its purpose, we have been forced to fight the FCC’s decision in court,” said David Chavern, association president. “Our industry provides long-term investigative journalism and local news and public affairs coverage that is intensely important to local communities. It makes no sense at all to prevent newspapers from helping to fund this essential activity by receiving capital and collaboration by an aligned industry such as broadcasting."

The National Association of Broadcasters is also suing the FCC over the decision on crossownership as well as not eliminating or loosening local TV and radio station ownership rules.

Though NMA's challenge was filed in the D.C. court, it said it would not object if the case were transferred to the Third Circuit, which has been hearing the media ownership challenges for more than a decade. NAB is also filing in the D.C. court but likely won't challenge a change of venue to the Third Circuit either.

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.