Common Cause Urges Supreme Court to Uphold Third Circuit Decision Protecting Media Ownership Diversity

Today, Common Cause joined Prometheus Radio Project, Movement Alliance 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 in filing a brief urging the Supreme Court to affirm the Third Circuit’s decision that the Federal Communications Commission was arbitrary and capricious in deregulating media ownership rules without considering what effect it would have on broadcast ownership by women and people of color. The FCC media ownership rules prohibit a single entity from owning too many newspaper, radio, and television entities within a local market.

The groups argued that the FCC has a long-standing policy to promote race and gender diversity in media ownership through its broadcast ownership rules. However, the Third Circuit correctly found that the FCC used flawed data and woefully insubstantial analysis that did not adequately consider the impact of its rule changes on diverse ownership. Because the FCC failed to follow its own policy and provide a reasoned explanation, the Third Circuit acted properly in vacating the agency’s decision to roll back several of its media ownership rules.

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

“The Third Circuit rejected bad FCC media ownership rule changes four times because each time the agency ignored the Court’s demand for evidence and a reasoned explanation on how rule changes would impact broadcast ownership diversity. Rather than do its job, the FCC is now seeking a bail out from the Supreme Court to push for greater media consolidation at the expense of ownership diversity.  Based on existing data, we know the number of broadcast stations owned by women and people of color is abysmally low as media conglomerates continue to consolidate. Women and people of color have struggled to acquire broadcast stations in an industry that’s been consolidated for far too long.

“Our democracy suffers when just a few entities own the majority of our media and there is no diversity in ownership.  The FCC’s media ownership rules are intended to prevent that from happening. We urge the Supreme Court to uphold the Third Circuit’s decision and require the FCC to once and for all fulfill its statutory mandate to promote race and gender diversity in media ownership.”

To read the brief, click here.