Supreme Court to Hear Media Ownership Case

For more than 17 years the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has blocked the FCC’s attempts to revise its media ownership rules. Now, in a rare move, the Supreme Court has agreed to review the Third Circuit’s decision in FCC v. Prometheus Radio.  The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case will hopefully break the logjam and allow for an updated review of the broadcast marketplace. FCC Chairman Agit Pai stated:

“I am very pleased that the Supreme Court has agreed to review the Third Circuit’s Prometheus decision, which vacated the FCC’s long-overdue reforms of its media ownership rules.  This is a breakthrough: a real chance to finally have media ownership rules that better match today’s realities.  For seventeen years, the same divided panel of the Third Circuit has repeatedly frustrated the FCC’s efforts to amend its rules to allow broadcasters to compete in today’s dynamic media marketplace.  Upon review, I hope that the Supreme Court will affirm the FCC’s reforms, which empower struggling local news outlets to thrive in today’s increasingly competitive media landscape.”

Outgoing FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly stated further:

“I’m elated that the U.S. Supreme Court has granted cert in FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project and will finally review the FCC’s broken and outdated media ownership rules.  Our existing 1970’s-era regulations don’t come close to matching up with today’s vastly competitive media marketplace or the law and must be jettisoned.  Failure to do so further penalizes U.S. broadcasters and the American public.”

We are excited that the court has an opportunity to review the record regarding  a vastly different communications marketplace than that which existed when the rules were adopted. A word of caution is in order with respect to timing.  While the case will be briefed this year, oral arguments may not occur until January or February. We could have a decision any time between March and June. Of course there is an election in November, which could result in a very different FCC. Depending on the Supreme Court’s decision, and the composition of a new FCC, we could see the retention of some broadcast ownership rules.

We also want to thank NAB’s legal team. They have done an excellent job on this issue.

To see Chairman Pai’s statement click HERE.

To see Commissioner O’Rielly’s statement click HERE.


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