Victory! 3rd Circuit Court overrules FCC on media consolidation

The efforts of public interest advocates across the country were vindicated on July 7 when the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the FCC's controversial 2007 decision to allow media companies to control both newspapers and broadcast stations in the same communities.

Across the country, hundreds of thousands of people had spoken out in favor of protecting independent journalism by banning excessive corporate consolidation. In Seattle, over 1100 people spoke out passionately against the FCC's proposal to weaken regulations at Reclaim the Media's standing-room only hearing on the issue. The new court ruling vindicates those efforts and sends the FCC an important message about their obligations to consider grassroots public opinion.

Media Access Project statement:

Appeals Court Broadcast Ownership
Decision Is "A Vindication Of The Public's Right
To Have A Diverse Media Environment"

July 7, 2011: The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit today ruled in favor of public interest groups in deciding that the FCC acted improperly in attempting to liberalize its rules prohibiting ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations in the same market. In addition, the Court agreed with the citizens groups that the Commission failed to consider the impact of its rules on minority ownership of the media. The Court also agreed with the public interest groups that pre-existing limits on the number of TV and radio stations a broadcaster can own in one market should remain in place.

Media Access Project represented the Prometheus Radio Project in challenging the newspaper/broadcast rule and minority ownership actions, and in supporting the retention of the other rules. Andrew Jay Schwartzman argued the case on behalf of Prometheus.

The decision of Judge Thomas Ambro was joined in full by Judge Julio Fuentes. Chief Judge Anthony Scirica dissented as to the newspaper/broadcast rule.

The following statement on the study can be attributed to Andrew Jay Schwartzman, Senior Vice President and Policy Director of Media Access Project (MAP):

"We won on almost every point. This decision is a vindication of the public's right to have a diverse media environment. The FCC majority knew that its effort to allow more media concentration was politically and legally unworkable, so it tried to end-run the procedural protections that are designed to give the public the right to participate in agency proceedings. It was disapointing that FCC Chairman Genachowski chose to defend his predecessor's erroneous action, but now that the Court has directed the FCC to make sure the public is not ignored, we can look forward to having a right to meaningful participation as the FCC looks at these questions again."

article originally published at .

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey