FCC asks court to leave cross-ownership decision hanging

by John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

The FCC has asked the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to hold off making a decision on the many challenges to the FCC's media ownership rules until it has had a chance to conduct its Quadrennial Review next year.

The FCC is required to review its ownership rules every four years to determine whether they are still "necessary in the public interest".

As a result of the last review in 2006, the FCC, under then-chairman Kevin Martin, loosened the ban on newspaper-broadcast crossownership, but took no further action, saying no further action was in the public interest. Foes of any further deregulation opposed any loosening of the ban as too much deregulation, while those looking for the FCC to scrap the ban or loosening multiple station ownership limits in a single market complained it was insufficiently deregulatory.

Both sides asked the FCC to reconsider the decision and also too it to various courts. It was ultimately consolidated in the Third Circuit. But there is a new, Democrat-controlled FCC, which signaled to the court that it did not necessarily agree with the previous decision.

On Nov. 4, the court asked the commission when it thought it would be weighing in on the petitions to reconsider. "The Commission has determined that resolving the petition for reconsideration outside the context of its ongoing 2010 Quadrennial Review would require unwarranted duplication of effort and fragmented policymaking," FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick wrote to the court last week, and so asked the court to keep its powder dry as well until after the FCC has weighed in as part of the overall quadrennial review, either by continuing to hold the court challenges in abeyance or remanding them back to the commission.

Schlick said that the formal proceeding will begin in early 2010, and may not come up with any of the same conclusions of the previous commission, since there are three new commissioners since then, and a fourth, Commissioner Michael Copps, originally voted against the FCC's 2007 ownership reform stemming from the quadrennial review.

article originally published at Broadcasting and Cable.

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