Public Interest Groups Request Reversal of Rules That Encourage Media Cross-Ownership

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Public Interest Groups Request Reversal of Rules That Encourage Media Cross-Ownership

WASHINGTON - Media
Access Project (MAP), the Institute for Public Representation (IPR),
and a coalition of public interest organizations including Free Press
filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [yesterday], 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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Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net

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