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Supreme Court leaves FCC media ownership rules in place

June 29, 2012|By Jim Puzzanghera
  • Former FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin during a 2007 hearing on media ownership rules.
Former FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin during a 2007 hearing on media ownership… (Kevin Wolf / Associated…)

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Friday left government restrictions in place on the ownership of a newspaper and broadcast station in the same market, turning down an appeal by media companies.

The high court declined to take the case, which involved appeals of a lower court ruling filed by Media General Inc., the National Assn. of Broadcasters, Tribune Co. (which owns the Los Angeles Times) and other media companies

The companies had argued that decades-old Federal Communication Commission rules limiting dual ownership of media outlets in the same city were outdated in the Internet era, when people have many more ways to access news than they did when the rules were first enacted.

"We live today in a world of media convergence, where technology allows access to news
from a wide variety of media platforms," Media General argued in its petition to the Supreme Court. "Unfortunately, the law has not kept pace with technology."

Beginning in 1975, the FCC had banned so-called cross-ownership of newspapers and TV and radio stations in the same city, although it allowed exceptions in some cases. In 2007, the FCC eased some rules in the nation's 20 largest media markets and said it also would consider exceptions in smaller markets. 

In July, a federal appeals court tossed out the looser rules, saying the FCC hadn't followed proper procedures in making the changes. The appeals court also affirmed the cross-ownership limits the FCC had left in place. Media companies appealed the ruling.

The FCC and the Justice Department argued the government had the right to limit ownership of public airwaves to ensure "the public has access to a multiplicity of information sources."

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