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Ninth Circuit Keeps Cross-Ownership Challenge

The challenge to the Federal Communications Commission's newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule change will remain in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, at least for now.

A couple of dozen appeals were filed against the rule change in numerous courts, but the Ninth Circuit won the lottery -- literally -- to hear the case.

The Newspaper Association of America, for one, petitioned the D.C. Circuit Court in Washington, D.C., to assert its jurisdiction over the appeal, since it is the court of appeals for disputed FCC decisions. John Sturm, president of the association, called the decision "fairly routine," and added "we will still be able to make all our agruments about the jurisiction of the D.C.Court of appeals."

The D.C. Circuit said its "possible" exclusive jurisdiction did not trump the precedent of the courts' ability to consolidate cases elsewhere, as, in fact, happened the first time the media-ownership rules were challenged back in 2003. Then, too, proponents of the rules sought to have the case heard in the D.C. Circuit, but it remained in the Third Circuit.

The court's decision Thursday means that the Ninth Circuit continues to have jurisdiction, said Media Access Project's Andrew J. Schwartzman, whose group challenged the rules.

But he added that the Ninth Circuit can still transfer the consolidated appeals to the Third Circuit, where Schwartzman wants it; to the D.C.Circuit, where the NAA and other supporters of the rule change would prefer it; or keep the case itself.

He said the court will now likely let the varoius parties weigh in again before deciding whether or not to shift the venue to D.C. or Philadelphia (the Third Circuit) or keep it at home.

The FCC voted Dec. 18 to loosen, although not lift, the ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership, suggesting that it was just the right amount of deregulation, after which the NAA and broadcasters took it to court as too little and media activists challenged it as too much.

Separately, the Senate voted to nullify the rule change, although the House has yet to act.