Jan 08 2020

WASHINGTON, DC—The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued its mandate in the media ownership case known as Prometheus IV, after denying a review en banc, likely putting a halt to the FCC’s plan to update broadcast station media ownership rules. Womble Bond Dickinson Telecom attorney John Garziglia recently spoke with Communications Daily about the FCC’s possible next steps in light of the vacating of the FCC’s 2014 Quadrennial Review Order on Reconsideration.

The Third Circuit decision struck down an FCC plan adopted in 2017 to loosen media ownership restrictions by allowing for, among other things, newspaper/broadcast station cross-ownership. Going forward, under one FCC proposal in the now also pending 2018 Quadrennial Review, single radio station owners would no longer would be limited to how many stations they may own in many radio markets. But some critics have said this change would likewise have a detrimental impact on women and minority ownership.  The Third Circuit said in its recent decision that, unless the FCC can produce data on how media ownership relaxation rule changes impact minority and female ownership, the FCC cannot proceed with media ownership changes.  
 

“If the agency deregulated local radio ownership and found itself facing challenges from other broadcasters, plus expected public interest challenges, the rule change would face a tougher road, he said.”

Several observers have suggested that the FCC might split off some radio ownership deregulation items from the ongoing Quadrennial Reviews, perhaps in hopes that it can move parts of media ownership issues to a different, potentially more friendly federal court circuit. But Garziglia tells Communications Daily this tactic has an additional drawback since a loosening of the radio ownership rules, in particular, is not universally supported by broadcasters and thus the FCC may only be inviting additional challenges to media ownership rule changes.

“If the agency deregulated local radio ownership and found itself facing challenges from other broadcasters, plus expected public interest challenges, the rule change would face a tougher road, he said.”

Click here to read “Breaking Up 2018 QR Unlikely to Dodge 3rd Circuit, Attorneys Say” in Communications Daily (subscription required).

Also, click here to read more from John Garziglia about the Third Circuit striking down the FCC media ownership deregulation plan. 

John Garziglia represents radio and television broadcasters, offering personalized assistance in all areas of communications and telecommunications law including transactional and contract negotiations for broadcast station mergers and acquisitions, the securing of financing, governmental auctions of new frequencies, license renewals, new stations applications, facility changes, facility upgrades, licensing, and compliance with FCC rules, regulations and policies