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Philly Court Holds Fate of Dereg

Whether new broadcast-ownership rules will take effect this week depends on what federal appeals court judges in Philadelphia rule on Wednesday.

The federal appeals court will hear oral arguments and rule on requests to stay the FCC's new ownership limits scheduled to take effect the next day, Sept 4. Public-advocacy groups have asked that implementation be postponed until the court rules on their validity. The FCC is urging the court to deny a stay, arguing that suits to throw out the rules aren't likely to prevail and no harm will come from implementing the rules now.

Allowing the FCC's relaxed ownership rules to take effect while their validity remains in question could cause chaos in the industry if the rules are later struck down, countered attorneys for Media Access Project, one group seeking the stay.

Three of the four major broadcast networks, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance and Media General have filed separate challenges to various portions of the rules.

The nets are seeking to have the case transferred to the appeals court in Washington, D.C., a move the FCC endorses because that court has tackled the issues in previous ownership cases. Public advocates argue that the D.C. court is hostile to preserving the previous limits. The Philadelphia panel isn't scheduled to rule on the transfer request until the stay petition is decided. That court was chosen in a lottery among courts where various appeals of the new FCC rules were filed.