WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals rebuked the FCC for overstepping its legal authority when the agency limited joint sales agreements among TV stations without first conducting the review of local television ownership rules required by Congress.
“Today’s decision was a well-deserved rebuke for the FCC,” said Berin Szóka, President of TechFreedom. “The FCC has never been well grounded in reality, under Democrats or Republicans, but the problem has grown far, far worse under Tom Wheeler — and the FCC’s outdated regulations have become more and more destructive as the Internet continues to transform the media marketplace.”
In 2003, the FCC made a good-faith effort to revamp its media ownership rules based on a ‘diversity index’ that would better track changes in the media landscape — instead of pretending that newspapers and TV were still the only games in town. The Third Circuit blocked that reform as inadequately justified. Five years ago, the Court told the FCC to try again to conduct the quadrennial ownership rule and the underlying methodology, but the FCC simply ignored the Court. Today, the Court called this failure a “thumb in the eye of Congress,” quoting Commissioner Ajit Pai’s dissent.
“Instead of updating its approach to media, the FCC has cracked down further, trying to block television stations from pooling resources so they can compete better against Internet-based media,” concluded Szóka. “Meanwhile, the FCC continues to block newspapers from forging alliances with broadcasters. The all-too-predictable result is that advertising dollars have moved to the Internet far faster than they would have in a free market. Traditional media have been hamstrung by the FCC, and media localism has suffered. The FCC should be getting out of the way as all media try to reinvent themselves, not imposing new regulations divorced from reality. Tearing down these absurd silos should be a top reason for finally overhauling the Communications Act for the first time since 1996. The health of our democracy is at stake.”