FCC Rules Reform OK’d By Court


On January 22, an entity comfortable with locking horns with the FCC went at it again. Prometheus Radio Project took the Commission to court, with the Media Mobilizing Project joining in a case filed with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Today, the Court gave its ruling to the two entities: Motion denied.

As a result, the Commission’s FCC’s media ownership reform order is now on track to move forward. The NAB and top broadcast TV companies including Sinclair Broadcast Group and Nexstar Media Group, are no doubt pleased.

In an order entered at 3:21pm Eastern, a trio of Circuit Judges approved the Order denying Emergency Petition for Writ of Mandamus filed by Prometheus Radio Project and Media Mobilizing Project.

Why? “Petitioners have not satisfied the exacting standard for obtaining such relief,” the judges wrote, referring to a case involving Howmedica Osteonics Corp.

The judges observed that a writ of mandamus “may issue only if the petitioner shows (1) a clear and indisputable abuse of discretion or [] error of law, (2) a lack of an alternative avenue or adequate relief, and (3) a likelihood of irreparable injury.”

The action means the FCC’s decision to end the ban on cross-ownership rules such as broadcast/newspaper combinations and radio/TV combinations in the same market will go forward and face no delay; it was erroneously reported by RBR+TVBR in early versions of this story that a six-month delay will be seen.

There will be no delay in loosening other local television combinations in individual markets. The merits of the Prometheus challenge to the FCC’s new rules will be heard later this year. However, with the request for a stay denied by the court, hope that the FCC’s relaxation of the rules will be upheld is growing across Washington.

That’s because the judges note that the exact design of the FCC’s new incubator program is subject to public comment through April 9.

As such, “the petitions for review pending at Nos. 17-1107 and 18-1092 shall be stayed for a period of 6 months from the date of this Order.”

“The FCC is hereby directed to file a report on or before August 6 regarding the status of the incubator program,” the judges note.

Commenting on the decision, NAB EVP/Communications Dennis Wharton says, “We’re grateful that the court rejected the mandamus request and that meaningful reform of outdated broadcast ownership rules can go forward.”

With the judges’ ruling on Wednesday, a request to proceed as an intervenor filed by the NAB, Sinclair, Nexstar and groups such as New Media Alliance, Twenty-First Centrury Fox, Bonneville International Corp., News Corporation and Connoisseur Media were denied as moot.

The NAB on Feb. 2  along with Sinclair Broadcast Group filed a 42-page motion with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in a formal response to the request of Prometheus Radio Project and Media Mobilizing Project that the Court issue an emergency stay on the FCC’s media ownership reform order.

What did the NAB and Sinclair want? A “move for leave,” which would have allowed them to file their answer to questions as to why a stay shouldn’t be granted.

That’s no longer necessary, thanks to the ruling today.

As RBR+TVBR reported Dec. 22, Prometheus and MMP asserted in their filing that the FCC slashed important diversity safeguards without ample justification and claim the FCC’s move “ignores evidence in the record, misinterprets evidence, and fails to consider important aspects of the record.”

The two groups also say the Commission conducted its Nov. 17, 2017 vote to cut ownership controls although years of record-keeping and previous court rulings suggested the move was unsupported.

Thus, Prometheus and MMP wanted the court to reverse the 3-2 party-line decision and to tell the Commission to “fully comply” with the court’s direction in remanding a previous quadrennial decision after Prometheus challenged it.



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