WASHINGTON -- Media Access Project (MAP), the Institute for Public Representation (IPR), and a coalition of public interest organizations including Free Press has filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, stating that the Federal Communications Commission’s 2008 decision to significantly weaken its media ownership rules was unreasonable and against the law. The brief challenged the 2008 Newspaper-Broadcast Cross Ownership rule (NBCO), under which any entity can own and operate both a newspaper and a broadcast station in a single media market and which was enacted by a 3-2 party line vote under the Bush-era Commission. MAP, IPR and the coalition seek a reversal of that decision.
In the brief, the groups argued that NBCO is marred by procedural irregularities, ambiguous provisions, and loopholes, all of which counter the rule’s stated purpose to increase diversity in the marketplace of ideas. The Commission also neglected to address whether its modification of broadcast ownership rules would harm minority and female media ownership – despite the court’s instruction to the Commission to promote such ownership. Further, the Commission put in place a standardless waiver that allows media outlets to merge based on promises that the FCC cannot monitor or enforce.
Andrew Jay Schwartzman, MAP’s vice president and senior policy director and counsel for Prometheus Radio Project, said, “The Commission’s 2008 cross-ownership rule is fraught with loopholes that further limit diversity in our media environment. Given the Commission’s aims to increase diversity, the enactment of this rule was the antithesis of reasoned decision-making.”
Angela Campbell, counsel for Media Alliance and the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Inc., said that “the Court should remand the case because the Commission completely failed to consider how to reduce media consolidation and increase opportunities for minorities and women to enter the broadcasting business.”
Corie Wright, policy counsel for Free Press, said, “A diversity of competing local voices in the media is a critical part of our democracy. The current rules have opened a back door to consolidation that could undermine these values.”
Under congressional direction, the Commission is also planning to conduct a new, separate review of its media ownership rules this year.
Link to the brief: http://www.freepress.net/files/Prometheus_Brief.pdf
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