Supreme Court Defers to FCC Authority in Media Ownership Case But Leaves Door Open For Future FCC To Protect The Public Interest 

Today, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in Federal Communications Commission v. Prometheus Radio Project upholding the FCC’s 2017 Order to roll back several of its media ownership rules. The rules prohibit a single entity from owning too many newspaper, radio, and television stations within a local market. In upholding the FCC’s deregulation of media ownership rules, the Supreme Court found that the agency acted reasonably for the purposes of the Administrative Procedure Act, which guides agency decision making.

In December, Common Cause filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to affirm the Third Circuit’s prior decision that the FCC did not adequately consider the effect of its rule changes on media ownership diversity.

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

“While we are disappointed in the outcome of the case, it falls in line with prior court decisions giving agencies deference under the Administrative Procedure Act and signals that the FCC in the future will have broad discretion to enact substantive media ownership rules.

“We are confident that the FCC under the current administration will act quickly to develop strong media ownership rules in the public interest, collect, study, and analyze accurate ownership data, and promote ownership diversity. Unlike the FCC under the Trump administration, this FCC will not ignore the rule of law and its own policy objectives to appease media conglomerates pushing for more consolidation.”