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Sinclair Petitions Court on Ownership

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. wants the Supreme Court's help in getting rid of local-TV-ownership rules that it said have kept it from being competitive against some bigger players with national networks and cable interests.

The broadcaster has asked the High Court to decide whether or not a lower court erred in continuing to enforce FCC local TV ownership restrictions when it remanded the FCC's deregulatory ownership rule rewrite.

Sinclair argues that the Third Circuit (Philadelphia) court incorrectly overruled the First Circuit (D.C.), which had concluded in 1999 that the restrictions were insufficiently justified and remanded the rules back to the FCC in with the instruction to better justify or get rid of them.

That Sinclair argument is hardly a surprise, since it was Sinclair's challenge to the restrictions that helped prompt the First Circuit's decision, and ultimately, the FCC's more deregulatory rewrite of its ownership rules in response to the D.C. court's remand.

Sinclair argues that the limits on local TV ownership violate the First Amendment because they target a particular medium for unique restrictions, while putting none on cable, satellite or the Internet.

It also took aim at the spectrum scarcity rationale, which the Supreme Court used to justify broadcast speech regulation in the 1969 Red Lion case, saying it is no longer valid due to "dramatic changes in the video marketplace."

Tribune and Media General also took aim at Red Lion justification for broadcast regulation in their petitions to the court.

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.