FCC’s Media Deregulation Takes A Hit
The Federal Communications Commission’s June 2003 decision to loosen media ownership rules met significant roadblocks this week. The U.S. Court of Appeals sent a message the FCC will have to go back to the drawing board.
On Thursday, June 24, 2004 the Third Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia handed down its decision on the lawsuit against the FCC’s media deregulation brought by several organizations, including Capitol Broadcasting Company. According to TV Week, the Court said in a 2-1 decision that “while some relaxation of the ownership limits might be reasonable, the agency had failed to adequately justify the limits it had put in place.”
The Court voted to continue the stay on the FCC’s June 2, 2003 ruling until the FCC could change the media ownership and other rules to the Court’s satisfaction.
After the Third Circuit’s announcement, FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps said, “We have now heard from the American people, Congress, and the courts. The rush to media consolidation approved by the FCC last June was wrong as a matter of policy. The Commission has a second chance to do the right thing.” Copps joined Commissioner Joseph Adelstein in voting against the FCC rules last June, outnumbered by the three Commissioners.
“This is a vindication for the vast majority of the American public who apposed these rule changes,” commented Adelstein in response to the Court’s decision. “The court largely undid what would have been the most destructive rollback of media ownership protections in the history of American broadcasting.”
Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, June 22, the US Senate voted unanimously on an amendment to completely overturn the FCC’s media ownership deregulation. The amendment is attached to a Pentagon funding bill. On the same day the Senate also voted 99-1 to add language massively raising fines for off-color broadcasting to the bill.