The Supreme Court suggested Tuesday it will let the FCC loosen media ownership limits. Hearing arguments by phone, the justices questioned a federal appeals court decision that blocked the changes. The appeals court told the FCC to first study the potential impact on female and minority ownership in the media industry, reported Bloomberg.
The television ownership limits were last revised in the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Republicans and the broadcast industry have been seeking to relax the limits since then, saying the limits are outdated given the proliferation of new information sources — and competition — for broadcasters.
“We’re stuck with rules from the 1970s that 20 years ago, 25 years ago, Congress said were outdated,” Justice Neil Gorsuch said to a lawyer challenging the changes, Bloomberg noted.
Companies including News Corp., Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., Fox Corp. and Nexstar Media Group Inc. are part of a group backing the FCC efforts to ease the rules. Advocacy organizations led by Prometheus Radio Project oppose the changes, saying they’d result in a wave of TV consolidation nationwide.
The FCC’s 2017 plan would eliminate a rule that had barred companies from owning two television stations in a market that didn’t have at least eight independently owned stations. The commission is also seeking to allow companies to own two of the top four stations in some markets. In addition, the FCC would lift bans on cross-ownership of a daily newspaper and a TV station in the same coverage area, and on ownership of a radio and television station in the same market.
The cases are FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project, 19-1231, and National Association of Broadcasters v. Prometheus Radio Project, 19-1241.
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