Third Circuit, Again, Hears Argument in Challenge to FCC Broadcast Ownership Deregulation

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Federal Communications Commission media ownership deregulation took its latest trip to Philadelphia (PA) June 11 as the FCC defended its latest rule changes against a challenge by Prometheus Radio Project in the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  Prometheus filed suit against the FCC's fall 2017 decision, under Chairman Ajit Pai, that eliminated the newspaper-broadcast and the radio-TV cross-ownership rules, among other deregulations. Joined by the Media Mobilizing Project, Prometheus wants the court to reverse the 2017 decision and require the FCC to "fully comply" with the court's direction to have the FCC explicitly consider the impact diversity in these types of decisions. "The FCC has failed to meet its statutory obligation to promote gender and race diversity in ownership of broadcast stations," said attorney Cheryl Leanza, who joined Benton Senior Fellow Andrew Schwartzman and others is arguing the case. 

The judges hearing the appeal were Thomas Ambro, Anthony Scirica and Julio Fuentes, the same three that have heard the case since the FCC's media ownership deregulation was first stayed in 2003 following a challenge by Prometheus. It is the fourth legal challenge to FCC media ownership rules by effectively the same parties, something Prometheus has pointed out. According to Schwartzman, the judges made it clear they were tired of the case coming back and wanted it resolved. He said there was no mention of "standing"-which had been an issue. That doesn't mean the court couldn't come back with a decision based on standing to bring the suit, but it seemed unlikely it would not go to the arguments in the case.  He said the judges had "lots of problems" with both sides, but gave the FCC a hard time for basing a decision that could affect women and minorities on data about race. Judge Scirica seemed more sympathetic to the FCC arguments, said Schwartzman. 

Third Circuit, Again, Hears Argument in Challenge to FCC Broadcast Dereg