WASHINGTON — On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission filed for a rehearing of the court case that resulted in a rejection of the Pai FCC’s attempt to scrap media-ownership limits. On Sept. 23, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit condemned the FCC’s fraught deregulation.
In 2018, 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. joined with attorneys from Georgetown Law’s Institute of Public Representation and Cheryl Leanza of Best, Best & Krieger to challenge the Trump FCC for failing to examine how its rule changes to bless media consolidation would impact ownership opportunities for women and people of color.
In a 2–1 decision, the judges agreed with this group of petitioners and overturned the FCC’s decision to dismantle rules banning newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership and barring broadcasters from owning even more stations in a single local market.
Free Press Vice President of Strategy and Senior Counsel Jessica J. González made the following statement:
“Over the past 15 years, this court has told the FCC in four separate rulings that it must consider the impact of any rule changes on ownership opportunities for women and people of color. But again and again successive chairs of the agency have ignored this guidance and many, including most recently Chairman Pai, have tried to gut these essential limits. This is only the latest example of Pai bending to the wish lists of big media moguls.
“In September’s ruling, the judges described the FCC’s analysis as ‘so insubstantial that it would receive a failing grade in any introductory statistics class.’ The court also ordered the agency to do the job it’s long refused to do: weigh all of the evidence showing the effects of media consolidation on ownership opportunities for women and people of color. Shamefully, instead of facing that task, Chairman Pai instead is pulling out his bag of legal tricks and procedural posturing to avoid having to conduct this analysis.
“We’re prepared to defend our victory and are confident that the judges will deny the FCC’s request and order the FCC to do its job.”
Cheryl Leanza, who argued the case on behalf of the petitioners, made the following statement:
“The FCC’s decision was rightfully overturned. Rather than expending resources on appeals, the agency should finally correct its ownership data and craft policies that will increase the number of women and people of color who own radio and TV stations.
“I’m particularly concerned because the vacuum created by the FCC’s failure to appropriately update its rules — combined with the additional delay inherent in any further appeal — comes at a critical time. We’re hearing about proposals with respect to at least one pending transaction at the Commission that would achieve results the rules were clearly designed to prohibit, and at least one transaction that was approved solely because the court’s mandate had not yet issued. This delay of the FCC’s own making shouldn’t be used as an excuse to push through transactions that violate the FCC’s rules and the Third Circuit’s decision.”