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CEI Calls on FCC to Appeal Third Circuit Ruling on Media Ownership to the Supreme Court

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This week, the Third Circuit struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s statutorily-obligated revisions to media ownership rules in a 2-1 decision. CEI urges FCC to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Associate Director of CEI’s Center for Technology and Innovation Jessica Melugin offered the following comments:

“The Third Circuit’s ruling on media ownership is detached from both the law and reality. As the Court’s own decision acknowledges, Congress has explicitly empowered FCC to ‘to review the broadcast ownership rules on a regular basis’ and ‘The Commission “shall repeal or modify any regulation it determines to be no longer in the public interest.”’

“After failing to uphold this statutory obligation for the last decade-and-a-half, the FCC determined that its rules barring common ownership of both a newspaper and broadcast station, or a television station and a radio station, in a single market are outdated and should be eliminated. FCC additionally eliminated the ‘eight voices’ test, barring common ownership of two of the top eight TV stations in a single market.

“The FCC’s logic here ought to be painfully obvious. In the age of the internet, these rules make absolutely no sense. Today, newspapers have their own podcasts and YouTube channels, direct substitutes for radio and television. Radio and television stations have their own websites and blogs, direct substitutes for newspapers. This has helped some newspapers and broadcasters survive in the face of virtually-infinite online competition. Thus, it stands to reason that common ownership between any combination of newspapers and radio and television stations would offer the same competitive staying-power.

“Yet the activist judges on the Third Circuit have reinstated these rules, citing the impact on ownership of these media by women and minorities. As noble as intentions to empower diverse voices may be, the math is simple and the reality is clear: more voices will be represented in the media marketplace if more outlets stay open. Under the rules the Third Circuit has put back in place, newspapers and broadcasters are struggling to find buyers and are shutting down.

“With a few clicks on their smartphone, a person of any race, creed, color, and gender can begin competing with biggest newspapers and broadcasters in any market in the country. Technology has had an undeniably positive impact on viewpoint diversity. By contrast, rules limiting how newspapers and broadcasters can achieve economies of scale and continue serving their communities won’t empower anyone when the presses stop and the airwaves go flat.

“With both the law and economics on their side, the FCC would be wise to appeal this case to the Supreme Court.”

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