Common Cause Urges Court to Protect Broadcast Ownership Diversity in FCC Lawsuit

Today, Common Cause, joined by Prometheus Radio Project, Media Mobilizing Project, Free Press, Office of Communication, Inc. of the United Church of Christ, and National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-Communications Workers of America, filed a petitioner’s brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit requesting the Court vacate its  2017 Reconsideration Order 2017 Reconsideration Order, which eliminated or relaxed several media ownership rules. The rules prohibited a single entity from owning too many newspaper, radio, and television entities within a local market. The petitioners also asked the Court to reverse and remand the FCC’s 2016 Second Report and Order and 2018 Incubator Order to the extent they repeal or modify media ownership rules without examining the impact to broadcast ownership diversity.

The petitioners argued that the FCC’s decision to relax or eliminate several of its media ownership rules was an abuse of its discretion because it failed to consider the impact of its decision on race and gender diversity in broadcast ownership. The petitioners specifically noted that the Commission’s decision to eliminate its cross-ownership rules and relax its local television ownership rules will lead to further media consolidation, detrimentally impacting the ability of women and people of color to own media outlets.

Statement of Michael Copps, Common Cause Special Advisor and Former FCC Commissioner

“The FCC is statutorily mandated to promote race and gender diversity in media ownership. But rather than examine the impact of its media ownership rules on minority ownership, the FCC unlawfully chose to eliminate or relax several of its rules giving the greenlight to big media conglomerates to further consolidate. We’re already witnessing the consequences of the FCC’s decision. Several media giants are taking advantage of the relaxed rules by attempting to merge. For example, Nexstar recently announced its plans to acquire Tribune which would make it the largest local tv broadcaster in the country. The FCC just approved Gray’s merger with Raycom allowing common ownership of stations that wouldn’t have been allowed under the prior rules. More transactions are predicted thanks to the FCC opening the floodgates to consolidation.

“This consolidation comes at the expense of minority-owned radio and television stations in communities across the country. Women and people of color already own a dismally low number of broadcast stations in the nation. These communities have struggled to acquire broadcast stations in an industry that’s been consolidated for far too long.  The Third Circuit has told the FCC on multiple occasions to examine how its media ownership rules impact race and gender ownership diversity. The FCC has not only failed to assess the impact of its rules on minority ownership but has also abandoned its rules all together. We urge the Court to reverse this unlawful decision and require the FCC to fulfill its statutory mandate to promote race and gender diversity in media ownership.”

To view the brief, click here.