Supreme Court Affirms FCC Authority to Revise Rules on Media Ownership Limits While Upholding Misguided Trump-Era RulesApril 1, 2021
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s authority to craft rules related to consolidation of broadcast ownership in the case of FCC v Prometheus. This will not only allow further consolidation in the broadcast industry, but also harm diversity of ownership — particularly among women and people of color.
Although Public Knowledge opposes the rules upheld by the Court, it is important to note that the Court’s ruling found only that the rules were “within the zone of reasonableness” permitted under the FCC’s authority. The Court explicitly rejected consideration of the broader grounds urged by the National Association of Broadcasters which would have limited the authority of the FCC to consider the value of viewpoint diversity in future ownership rule reviews. The Court’s narrow basis for upholding the FCC’s rules will permit the FCC, under new leadership, to gather the ownership data that is essential to making an informed determination concerning how best to advance a diverse media marketplace.
The following can be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:
“Today’s Supreme Court decision reminds us that the threat of corporate gatekeepers controlling the access of the American people to diverse sources of news necessary for self-governance is not limited to a handful of social media and search giants. Thanks to deregulatory decisions by the Trump Administration, local newspapers and local broadcast stations can now be jointly owned in every market in the United States. This threatens to put the most trusted sources of local news in the hands of a few, giant consolidated corporations.
“Fortunately, today’s Supreme Court decision also reaffirmed the right — indeed, the responsibility — of Congress and the FCC to create ownership rules that protect independent ownership and affirmatively promote diversity and localism in media. Public Knowledge calls on Congress to create stronger media ownership rules and to adopt policies, such as the Public Knowledge Local News ‘Superfund,’ that affirmatively promote diverse local news media. Even if Congress does not act, the FCC can move swiftly under its existing statutory authority to create new rules that ensure that Americans have access to local and national news needed to combat misinformation and preserve our democracy.”