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Supremes Mum on Media Ownership Case Review

The Supreme Court took no action Monday on broadcasters' appeal of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last July upholding the FCC's 2008 decision not to loosen the TV duopoly, radio ownership or TV/radio cross-ownershiprules, but vacating the FCC's loosening of the broadcast/newspaper cross-ownership rule for failure to meet notice and comment requirements. 

The Supremes had a conference Friday where they were expected to consider three appeals of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. The National Association of Broadcasters sought appeal on the grounds that there was a split in the circuits, while Tribune (joined by Fox, Sinclair, Clear Channel, Bonneville, and the Newspaper Association of America) and Media General challenged on constitutional grounds in separate petitions.

The list is bare bones, simply identifying which cases have been accepted or denied, with no explanation for why either decision was made. Those appeals were not on it, which means the court has not decided one way or  another.

Court watchers predicted that if the court took no action, it was likely because it was waiting until it had ruled on the government's challenge to FCC indecency enforcement before it decides, since that also implicates the scarcity rationale for broadcast regulation (Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC) that Tribune et al. and Media General are challenging in their appeals to the Supremes.

The FCC last fall recommending the FCC scrap the radio-TV cross-ownership rules, but leave in place the radio and TV local market ownership caps and essentially preserve the FCC's attempted loosening of the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules. Broadcasters will be weighing in on that decision, however, with the FCC's comment deadline on its proposed changes April 17.