WASHINGTON — On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari and decided to hear the Trump FCC’s argument for reinstating its repeal of vital broadcast-ownership limits. The broadcast industry joined the FCC to seek this high-court review, fighting safeguards against corporate broadcasters’ ability to consolidate control over multiple stations and news outlets in local markets throughout the United States.
In 2019, the Third Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the FCC’s repeal and then denied the FCC’s request for a rehearing on that decision, throwing the matter back to the agency. But rather than put in the work to correct its mistakes, the FCC and the Trump administration decided to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court decision to hear the case follows a string of legal victories for the coalition of media-justice groups, including Free Press, that challenged the Trump FCC’s ownership decisions for failing to address the impact of deregulation on race and gender diversity in broadcasting.
The agency’s neglect of its obligation to promote localism, diversity and competition has led to a wave of media consolidation as giant broadcast conglomerates strive to further expand their hold on local radio and television stations via mergers and the use of shell companies.
In past decisions, courts have criticized the FCC’s inadequate efforts to analyze the lack of ownership diversity. A recent appeals-court decision characterized the Trump FCC’s approach as “so insubstantial that it would receive a failing grade in any introductory statistics class.”
Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. González made the following statement:
“While today’s decision gives the broadcast-industry another chance to argue for greater media consolidation, we’re confident that there is nothing for the Supreme Court to fix.
“For far too long the FCC leadership has served as an arm of the broadcast lobby, refusing any accountability for the shameful lack of ownership diversity in U.S. media. It has pushed racist and sexist deregulatory policies that increase barriers to entry for women and people of color.
“In particular, the agency has refused to examine how media consolidation impacts ownership opportunities for women and people of color, focusing instead on gutting media-ownership limits. That’s exactly why the FCC has lost time and time again when appeals courts have reviewed the agency’s efforts. In February, the Trump FCC released its most recent data on broadcast-ownership diversity, which showed little to no improvement.
“Even in the internet era, broadcast radio reaches almost 90 percent of people in the United States every week, and broadcast television remains the most popular source for local news and information. We need comprehensive reforms to remedy the historical discrimination that continues to block women and people of color from becoming station owners, not further blessings for the FCC and the broadcast industry to shut them out.
“If only the FCC had committed the time and energy expended in these legal shenanigans to actually doing its job. Had it studied the impact of its rule changes on ownership opportunities for women and people of color, we’d have a factual and principled record upon which to do reasoned policymaking to advance the public interest.
“We can no longer afford more foot dragging by the FCC: Instead of wasting everyone’s time in the courts, the agency must work with the people of the United States toward creating a more diverse and democratic media system that serves everyone.”