Supreme Court Allows FCC to Relax Media Ownership Rules

The U.S. Supreme Court has paved the way for the FCC to relax some of its media ownership rules, reversing a lower court ruling that the commission did not take sufficient steps to study the effect of changes on women and minority owners.

The nation’s high court unanimously agreed to reverse the 2017 decision by the Third Circuit court of appeals. Justice Brett Kavanaugh penned the opinion issued Thursday. Public interest groups challenged the FCC’s move in 2017 on the grounds that the process of changing several existing rules violated the federal Administrative Procedures Act.

“In light of the sparse record on minority and female ownership and the FCC’s findings with respect to competition, localism, and viewpoint diversity, we cannot say that the agency’s decision to repeal or modify the ownership rules fell outside the zone of reasonableness for purposes of the APA,” Kavanaugh wrote.

“In short, the FCC’s analysis was reasonable and reasonably explained for purposes of the APA’s deferential arbitrary-and-capricious standard. 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,” he wrote. “The FCC reasoned that the historical justifications for those ownership rules no longer apply in today’s media market, and that permitting efficient combinations among radio stations, television stations, and newspapers would benefit consumers. The Commission further explained that its best estimate, based on the sparse record evidence, was that repealing or modifying the three rules at issue here was not likely to harm minority and female ownership. The APA requires no more.”

More to come

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