(May 25, 2016)- In a decisive victory for broadcasters, the federal appeals court in Philadelphia today ordered the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to quickly review outdated broadcast ownership rules, and eliminated the FCC’s prohibition on joint sales agreements (JSAs) between television broadcasters. Click here to read the court’s decision.
In its ruling regarding JSAs, the court said the FCC could not lawfully expand the reach of its ownership rules through changes to its attribution standards (i.e., what interests “count” under those rules), unless the FCC had within the previous four years determined that the local ownership rules themselves serve the public interest. The FCC now must go back and review its local ownership rules and justify their existence before ruling on JSAs.
The court also ordered the FCC to complete the 2010/2014 quadrennial reviews by the end of this year, warning that failure to meet this deadline would be at the FCC’s “own risk,” and that NAB’s proposed “extreme” remedy – eliminating all the local broadcast ownership restrictions – “might be justified in the future if the Commission does not act quickly.”
Addressing the broadcast ownership rules, the judges discussed the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership prohibition and their agreement with the FCC over a decade ago that the complete ban no longer served the public interest. This language puts pressure on the FCC to eliminate or substantially cut back on the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule in its current review.
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