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Third Circuit Denies Rehearing in Media Cross-Ownership Case

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied a motion for a full-court review of its July cross-ownership decision in Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC on Tuesday.

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), CBS, and other media outlets requested re-hearing in August, saying that the three-judge panel had ruled incorrectly, and asserting that the Third Circuit appeared to want to retain jurisdiction over the case "in perpetuity."

The same three-judge panel had ruled against the group in 2004.

Why has media cross-ownership lingered in the courts for so long? The cross-ownership ban originated when newspapers still ruled the media. Since 1975, a company could not own both a newspaper and a television station in the same market.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relaxed the media ownership rules in the 20 largest metropolitan markets by a narrow vote in December 2007. Then-FCC Chairman Kevin Martin claimed that the cross-ownership ban no longer achieved its purpose because the Internet had ousted newspapers as the top source of information.

Media Access Project, the non-profit that brought Prometheus Radio Project, says that the Third Circuit decision was a huge victory for diversity in media, "effectively deciding that preserving democracy is more important than helping big media companies grow bigger."

The NAB maintains that the rules are outdated and should be tweaked.

In Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the 2007 cross-ownership changes on procedural grounds, not on the merits. While the cross-ownership ban went back into effect, the court clearly recognized the FCC's authority to write media-ownership rules.

FCC rules are reviewed and changed every four years; the last review was in 2010. Considering that the next media cross-ownership review would arise in 2014, and the current FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, is opposed to cross-ownership, we think that media interests will continue to pursue Prometheus Radio Project litigation in court.

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