A week after the Prometheus Radio Project asked the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn portions of the FCC’s August 25 media ownership order pertaining to media diversity, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the News Media Alliance (NMA) also filed petitions for review with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. These petitioners contend that the FCC’s decision to retain long-standing prohibitions against newspaper-broadcast station cross ownership and many other media ownership restrictions is arbitrary, capricious, and a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. The NAB is also challenging the FCC’s decision in that same order to reinstate the agency’s March 2014 ruling which classified joint sales agreements between television broadcasters in the same market as attributable ownership interests.
Both the NAB and the NMA—a newspaper trade group known formerly as the Newspaper Association of America—claim in appellate documents filed Monday that the FCC ignored the substantial changes that have taken place in the print and broadcast media sectors since the FCC completed its last quadrennial review of the media ownership rules in 2007. As it accused the FCC of unlawfully merging the 2014 quadrennial review with the 2010 review which the agency failed to complete, the NAB complained that, “despite the obvious transformative changes in the media landscape in the decade since the Commission’s last completed quadrennial review, the Commission failed to take a fresh look at the broadcast ownership rules and to repeal or modify them in light of those changes.” Along a similar vein, the NMA termed the FCC’s decision as “inexplicable,” lamenting the agency’s conclusion that, “despite the colossal transformation of the way we receive news and information, preventing a newspaper and radio station from being co-owned would somehow preserve newspapers—and localism, diversity, and competition—instead of hurt them.”
The NAB advised the court that, as a consequence of the August 25 order, broadcasters have been left “to labor under outdated and unnecessary restrictions (as well as new restrictions and other obligations) that harm their ability to compete and indeed survive in today’s digital media marketplace.” Emphasizing that the recent media ownership order “prevents our industry from achieving the necessary scale to compete in the media marketplace while investment will continue to flow to Internet distribution platforms that compete with news publishers for advertising revenue,” NMA CEO David Chavern vowed: “we will fight to overturn these rules once and for all.”