Appeals Court Tosses Controversial Media Cross-Ownership Allowance

A federal appeals court is telling the FCC to reconsider allowing corporations to own newspapers and TV stations in the same market.

For more than 30 years, companies were forbidden from owning both a newspaper and a TV station in a single market among the largest 20 markets in the nation. In 2007, in a narrow and controversial vote, the FCC decided to loosen these cross-ownership rules.

The new program gathered objection from many consumer advocates, including the Prometheus Radio Project, which has been battling the FCC on the appeals court level for several years in an attempt to gain more ownership diversity in the media.

Today, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals weighed in on the topic, determining that the FCC "failed to meet the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act" in making its rule change. The court found that then-FCC chairman Kevin Martin should have given the typical 90 days of response time to objectors instead of announcing the policy change in an editorial in the New York Times and allowing only 28 days of comments.

As a result, the  appellate court tossed the controversial cross-ownership rules and remanded the issue back to the FCC for further consideration.

The appeals court also directed the FCC to consider how it can adjust its media ownership rules so as to advance media ownership by women and minorities.

"The Commission is currently engaged in a statutorily mandated further review of its media ownership rules," said FCC general counsel Austin Schlick in a statement. "With an updated record and this supportive decision, the agency should be able to take appropriate steps to ensure that the nation's media marketplace remains healthy and vibrant."

Here's the latest opinion by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.


Twitter: @eriqgardner