Philly gets media-ownership appeals

The Federal Appeals Court in Philadelphia will rule on lawsuits filed against
the Federal Communications Commission’s new media-ownership rules.

The first thing on the court's plate will be to rule on public-advocacy
groups' requests to stay the rules' Sept. 4 effective date.

If granted, a stay could delay until well into 2005 the many station swaps
and cross-media acquisitions industry executives have been anticipating.

That's because the Philadelphia judges are likely to hold case in abeyance
until the FCC rules on petitions to reconsider its changes.

FCC reconsideration could take months and the court proceeding more than one

Dealing could even be squelched entirely if the court ultimately overturns
the rule changes approved by the FCC in June or if Congress steps in with its
own rewrite.

"If the court fails to issue a stay, massive consolidation of the broadcast
industry will occur before judicial review can be completed," Media Access
Project wrote in its filing.

MAP filed its appeal of the FCC’s rule changes last week on behalf of
Prometheus Radio Project, a group that campaigned for low-power FM radio and
other alternatives to corporate-controlled broadcasting.

Separate but similar suits were filed last week with various federal appeals courts.

Previously, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Network
Affiliated Stations Alliance had filed challenges to the rule in the Washington, D.C.,
appeals court.

All of those cases will be consolidated before the Philadelphia court, which was
selected via a lottery among the federal venues in which a case was filed.

Although appeals of the FCC’s June 2 rule changes aren’t due until Oct. 4,
last Friday was the final day parties could choose the court in which they filed
suits and, thus, which courts would be included in the selection lottery.

By filing in other venues, some parties appeared to hope that hearings in other
courts might go better for foes of deregulation than previous cases before Washington’s Federal Appeals Court.

In separate reviews of FCC broadcast- and cable-ownership limits, the
Washington court was extremely critical of efforts to preserve previous