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Court to FCC: Hold the Line on Media Consolidation

July 8, 2011

WASHINGTON - The Federal Communications Commission may not relax its ban against newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership, according to a ruling Thursday by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals which also supported the FCC's decision to maintain other regulations intended to inhibit media monopolies.

In addition to preventing one company from owning both print and broadcast stations in the same market, the rulings mean more competition and more opportunity for women and minority ownership of media companies, according to Brandy Doyle, policy director for the winning plaintiff, Prometheus Radio Project.

"Today was a major victory for everyone who cares about a diverse and competitive media. It sends a mandate to the FCC to emphasize competition and not consolidation."

The issue has been in the courts since 2008 when the cross-ownership ban was first lifted by Bush administration appointees. In its ruling, the court said the move by the FCC was "highly irregular."

Media Access Project attorney Andy Schwartzman, who argued the case on behalf of Prometheus, sees Thursday's ruling as clearly anti-monopoly, adding that the appeals court sent the issue back to the FCC to consider strengthening competition and ownership opportunities.

"It directed it to take into account reliable data about how many women and minorities own the media and how they will be affected."

FCC Chairman Mignon Clyburn said the court decision "sends the important message that ownership diversity remains an important aspect of the overall media ownership regulatory framework."

Amy Miller/Lori Abbott, Public News Service - MI