Appeals Court Tosses FCC's Media Ownership Rules

from the does-it-really-matter? dept

You may recall that, four years ago, the Kevin Martin FCC pushed through (despite massive complaints from people) some incredibly meek media ownership rule relaxations. As you may know, there were existing rules that said the same company couldn’t own a newspaper along with a local TV station. The reasoning behind this was the fear that a single operator of both the paper news and broadcast news would dominate the local news dissemination business and could influence the public too much. Of course, in the age of the internet, that seems really silly. And the FCC’s rule change was incredibly minor. As we wrote at the time:

In the top 20 media markets, newspapers can merge with a single radio or TV station — but not if that TV station is one of the top 4 stations in that market. In other words, newspapers who are struggling to get beyond just being newspapers can finally expand into other media areas. I can’t understand why people are freaked out about this. At best, a newspaper can now own a tiny radio or TV station. The fear of only one point of view getting through is totally laughable for a variety of reasons. First, there are more sources of media than ever before in history — by a long shot. To think that a single TV station or newspaper can dominate the conversation is laughable. Second, since it can’t involve a top 4 TV station, it’s hard to believe that this new entity will have all that much dominance in the market.

But people still went crazy about this and lawsuits were filed. Over in the Third Circuit, a court has now dumped the new rules on what appears to basically be a technicality. Apparently, the FCC “”failed to meet the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act” to make this change. The standard procedure requires 90 days of response time, but Kevin Martin only gave people 28 days to comment.

Again, this whole thing seems pretty silly. Even if people still rely on broadcast news, this simply isn’t going to have that big of an impact.

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Comments on “Appeals Court Tosses FCC's Media Ownership Rules”

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Javarod (profile) says:

What’s interesting about this is that while the promise is that the merger would only be with a smaller station within a market, here in Phoenix, Gannet (owner of the Arizona Republic, USA Today and around 60 local papers) has a deal with the local NBC station (merger, partnership, ?) that started with a website, While its not exactly a threat since as this article states there are a lot of other news sources, it challenges the claim that such connections will be limited to local papers and local stations.

Daddy Warbuck says:

Future concerns?

Point taken, it?s a minor issue in the present.

Now extrapolate into the future, say 5-10 yrs. What unintended consequences could arise from consolidated “media”? I use the term media lightly due to probable changes in the term used by the courts and some yet unforeseen platform.

Could Wireless or WiFi or unused spectrums become a media defined by legal maneuvers?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: I could not dis-agree more

I think we should step back and realize that the number of people who get their news online is tiny compared to the number who get news via major media. This is a VERY real problem.

(1) Define “tiny”. While I agree that a majority of people still get news from major media, I think you underestimate the actual ratio and the trend line.

(2) Even if your first statement is true, you don’t explain why this is actually a “problem.”

Scott Yates (profile) says:

Re: Re: I could not dis-agree more

From a Frontline piece on media:

On a typical day…
57% of Americans watch TV news
54% watch their local news
34% watch cable news channels
28% watch the nightly network news
23% watch the morning news programs (The Today Show, Good Morning America, etc.)

40% of Americans read a newspaper

36% of Americans listen to news on the radio

23 % of Americans get news online
18% visit news aggregators (Google News, Yahoo! News, AOL News, etc.)
14% visit national TV networks’ sites (,,, etc.)
14% visit newspaper Web sites
4% visit news blogs
3% visit online news magazines (,, etc.)

I admit that these stats are a little old (2006), but it bears repeating: We (online news readers) are NOT the majority.

The reason it seems like a problem to me:

If one company owns all the local (and possible a majority of national) news outlets (tv, radio, newspaper, etc) they get to decide what gets covered. Nothing that makes THEM look bad of course. Nothing that goes against their owners views. No political ads for the guy they don’t like that might be running for senate. If they OWN all the local media, that seems like an AWFUL lot of undue influence.

Do we really want fox news to own ALL the local news outlets for example?

Am I really missing something here?

Does this not seem like a bad thing?

Richard (profile) says:

Given that people tend to watch the news that reflects their views, and not watch news that doesn’t, I don’t really see how this means anything at all anyway. If all the tv/newspaper etc news in an area is putting forward one point of view, then people who agree will read it and say “yes, you’re right!” and people who don’t will either not read it, or read it and say “no, that’s complete BS!”

Tmax48 says:


You want to see what this FCC ruling can do?
Look at Great Britain right now. Their media is dominated by Murdock and it has allowed an uncontested viewpoint backed my big money. This story has yet to totally unfold.

The ruling itself was pushed through against everyone’s attempts to get the proper hearings. I’m curious as to what Kevin Martin might have gotten for his efforts to bypass proper procedures.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Kevin Martin's proposed rules

So, seniors are becoming a major sector of the population.
Seniors, generally, don’t use the internet that much, and rely on TV and newspapers.
Seniors are more likely to vote, and so have a disproportionate impact on the vote.
But, merging all the news media into a Murdoch-type media outlet does not have a significant effect?
Why? Because you don’t want to believe it, so you close your mind?

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