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Supreme Court Upholds FCC's Relaxed Ownership Rules


Federal Communication Commission
Federal Communication Commission

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the Federal Communication Commission's moves to relax media ownership rules, handing down a unanimous ruling, 9-0. The justices found the FCC had acted reasonably in its 2017 regulatory rollback that was invalidated by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which included a rule allowing a single company to owning a radio or TV station along with a newspaper in a local market.

The court also found that the FCC was well within its authority to do away with three media ownership regulations despite a lack of data on how the deregulatory moves might affect women and minorities seeking to gain a toehold in the industry.

The agency's deregulation occurred under former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Current acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel had voted against the deregulatory move.

"The FCC considered the record evidence on competition, localism, viewpoint diversity, and minority and female ownership, and reasonably concluded that the three ownership rules no longer serve the public interest," wrote Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

"Federal Communications Commission's orders were not arbitrary and capricious. Based on the record evidence available, the FCC reasonably concluded that modifying its broadcast ownership rules would not harm minority and female ownership of broadcast media. I write separately to note another, independent reason why reversal is warranted: The Third Circuit improperly imposed non-statutory procedural requirements on the FCC by forcing it to consider ownership diversity in the first place," wrote Justice Clarence Thomas.

NAB CEO Gordon Smith said, "NAB commends today's unanimous decision by the Supreme Court that the FCC's recent and long-overdue modernization of its broadcast ownership regulations was lawful and appropriate. It is critical that the Commission continue to examine its media ownership rules to ensure that America's broadcasters are able to compete and meet the needs of local communities across the nation in today's media landscape. We look forward to working with the Commission on this effort given the essential role radio and television broadcasters play for all Americans."

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