A decision by the FCC four years ago to loosen restrictions on broadcast-newspaper cross ownership in the top media markets was turned back yesterday by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which determined that the FCC failed to meet the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act in enacting the rule change. Responding to the Third Circuit’s earlier remand of the FCC’s 2003 media ownership order, the FCC voted in 2007 to permit common ownership of a newspaper and a television station in the top 20 markets subject to certain conditions, reasoning that a loosening of the cross-ownership ban in large markets that have at least eight other major media “voices” was warranted. Although the FCC retained duopoly and other long-standing ownership restrictions in the interest of promoting media diversity and competition, it said it would consider on a case-by-case basis transactions that involve the combination of a TV station and newspaper in smaller markets. Remanding the cross ownership portion of the FCC’s order on procedural grounds, the court noted that then-FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced the rule change in a New York Times editorial that provided “only 28 days for response, not the usual 90 days.” Adding that a related 2006 rulemaking notice neglected to solicit comment on the regulatory framework in question, the court decreed that the FCC failed to “fulfill its obligation to make its views known to the public in a concrete and focused form as to make criticism or formulation of alternatives possible.” Handing the FCC a partial victory, the court upheld the FCC’s decision to retain other media ownership rules, concluding that such rules “are rationally related to substantial government interests in promoting competition and promoting viewpoint diversity.” News of the court’s action was applauded by public interest groups, such as Free Press and the Media Access Project, which had sought to overturn the 2007 order on grounds that it would encourage media consolidation and cripple diversity. FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who had voted against the 2007 order, praised the court’s decision as “a huge victory for the millions of Americans who have gone on record demanding a richer and more diverse media.” Pointing to “sweeping changes in the media landscape since most of the broadcast ownership rules were adopted decades ago,” a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB)—which argued that the FCC did not go far enough in relaxing cross-ownership and other rules—said, “NAB believes that modest reform of the rules to allow free and local broadcasters to compete successfully in a universe of national pay TV and radio platforms is warranted.”