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Media Ownership Rules Go to Court
Free Press and Media Access Project Attorneys Argue on Behalf of Citizen Petitioners Against FCC Moves to Gut Ownership Limits
PHILADELPHIA - February 24 - On Thursday, public interest advocates are presenting oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in a case challenging the Federal Communications Commission’s 2007 decision to lift the 35-year-old ban on newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership. Despite overwhelming public opposition from across the country and the political spectrum, in December 2007 the FCC dismantled the longstanding rule that keeps one company from owning both a major local daily newspaper and a TV or radio station in the same market. The FCC also refused to tighten its local television and radio ownership limits in spite of evidence that more media competition – not more media concentration – will provide Americans with the local news and information they need and want.
The FCC’s actions in 2007 ignored the millions of Americans — and 99 percent of the comments filed in the FCC docket — who oppose letting a few media giants swallow up more local media. While presented as a modest rule change, loopholes the FCC’s rules actually open the door to cross-ownership in any market and could allow newspapers to own TV stations of any size. Free Press research, using the FCC’s own data, has shown that media consolidation won’t create more local news and could further reduce the already paltry number of stations owned by women and people of color.
"Under Kevin Martin, the FCC attempted to eviscerate the longstanding rules regarding ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations in the same market,” said Media Access Project Senior Vice President and Policy Director Andrew Jay Schwartzman, who is representing Prometheus Radio Project, Media Alliance, and The Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ in the case. “We welcome the opportunity to call upon the Court to reverse that decision."
“The current FCC had an opportunity to tighten rules adopted in 2007,” added Free Press Policy Counsel Corie Wright, "but instead the current chairman has chosen to defend them, ignoring substantial evidence from public interest groups, academics and citizens showing that existing media consolidation levels already adversely impact the amount and quality of news from diverse sources. We hope the court will recognize these deficiencies and instruct the FCC to correct its mistakes."