FCC has to go back to the drawing board if it wants to ease the way for a company to own a newspaper and TV station in the same community. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit shot down rules that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin pushed through in 2008 to relax the cross ownership restrictions. The court said that Martin didn’t give the public enough time to respond to his proposals. That means the FCC probably will revisit the cross ownership rules beginning late this summer when it begins the Congressionally mandated quadrennial review of media regulations that was supposed to have been done last year. The court decision doesn’t require any company to divest properties. But if the FCC doesn’t adopt the same rules that Martin favored, it could affect Tribune: It used the 2008 standards to justify newspaper-TV cross-ownership arrangements in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.
“This decision is a vindication of the public’s right to have a diverse media environment,” says Media Access Project’s Andrew Jay Schwartzman. “The FCC majority knew that its effort to allow more media concentration was politically and legally unworkable, so it tried to end-run the procedural protections that are designed to give the public the right to participate in agency proceedings.” NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton says “There have been sweeping changes in the media landscape since most of the broadcast ownership rules were adopted decades ago. NAB believes that modest reform of rules to allow free and local broadcasters to compete successfully in a universe of national pay TV and radio platforms is warranted.”