Free Press and Allies Present Legal Challenge Against the FCC for Failing to Promote Diversity in Broadcast Ownership
PHILADELPHIA — On Tuesday, Free Press and several allies went before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to argue their case against the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal and relaxation of broadcast-ownership rules.
Arguing on behalf of Common Cause, the Communications Workers of America, Free Press, the Media Mobilizing Project, the Prometheus Radio Project and the United Church of Christ Office of Communication, Inc., attorney Cheryl Leanza explained that the FCC has failed to meet its statutory obligation to promote gender and race diversity in ownership of broadcast stations.
Data show that women and people of color are woefully underrepresented among broadcast-license holders. This lack of diversity is exacerbated by agency policies that foment consolidation, and by the agency’s failure to consider how such concentration affects ownership opportunities for women and people of color.
The groups argued that the FCC must collect accurate data about ownership among women and people of color. Without this information, it’s impossible for the agency to make any claims about the impact its deregulatory agenda would have on ownership diversity.
Free Press Policy Manager Dana Floberg made the following statement:
“The FCC has repeatedly failed to foster a media system that reflects our nation’s great diversity. It’s ignored Congress, which put broadcast-ownership limits in place to promote a range of choices among local stations.
“We’re suing the FCC for turning its back on this core principle, placing station ownership in the hands of just a few white men and denying millions of people the broadcast media their communities deserve. And in past appeals, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed with us, telling the FCC that it can’t allow further media consolidation without first examining how it would impact ownership opportunities for women and people of color.
“That the Trump FCC has responded by further weakening its rules with zero concern about the appalling lack of diversity in ownership is further proof of just how far the agency has strayed from its public-interest mandate.
“The resulting media consolidation has left communities with far less of the local news and information people need to stay informed. It’s time for the court to once again reject the FCC’s sloppy work, right this wrong and make the agency promote localism, diversity and competition over the public airwaves as Congress commanded.”