Rejecting a motion that, ironically, was filed by the FCC, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals vacated its stay of FCC rules that permit common ownership of a newspaper and a television station in the top 20 media markets. Adopted in December 2007 by a Republican-dominated FCC led by former Chairman Kevin Martin, the rules were promulgated in response to a Third Circuit remand of a 2003 FCC ruling that rolled back cross-ownership restrictions in most media markets and that also raised the decades-old national cap on TV station ownership. In response to numerous legal challenges, the Third Circuit imposed a stay of the 2007 media ownership rules that would allow TVnewspaper cross-ownership in the top 20 media markets subject to certain conditions. The rules would also permit the FCC to waive the cross-ownership ban in smaller markets after conducting a case-by-case evaluation of market concentration and other factors. Because the court’s long-standing stay of the 2003 FCC ruling also remained in force, broadcasters (until Tuesday’s ruling) have remained subject to the terms of the FCC’s original ban on newspaper-TV cross-ownership that was first enacted in the 1970s. After the current FCC, which is controlled by Democrats, told the court last May and again last fall that the 2007 order no longer reflected the views of the agency’s majority, the court asked the FCC in December to explain why the stay should not be lifted. Notwithstanding FCC arguments that the court should continue the stay and continue to hold the case in abeyance until the FCC completes its 2010 quadrennial review of the media ownership rules, the court decided this week to vacate the stay while setting a May 17 deadline for the filing of appellant briefs. As the National Association of Broadcasters praised the court’s move as “an initial step that could lead to modest reform of outdated media ownership rules,” FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, a member of the FCC’s Republican minority, termed the court’s decision as “particularly appropriate given the economic upheaval affecting the ongoing viability of many daily newspapers and broadcast stations.”