Free Press and other groups challenge what they call the FCC’s dramatic reversal of media-ownership limits that pave way for media mergers, including Sinclair-Tribune.
Free Press has joined Common Cause, Communications Workers of America and the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ to file suit against FCC efforts to repeal local media-ownership limits.
The petition for review, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, claims that the agency “has failed to consider the impact of its decisions on localism, diversity and competition in broadcast ownership.”
In particular, the petitioners highlight recent FCC decisions to relax crossownership and local television limits and its decisions not to properly account for stations’ use of joint sales agreements and shared services agreements (JSAs and SSAs) to evade ownership limits.
The filing comes as the FCC is weighing the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed takeover of Tribune Media, which would give Sinclair a broadcast reach far in excess of congressional and FCC limits on national and local media ownership.
Free Press Deputy Director and Senior Counsel Jessica J. González said in a statement: “The Pai FCC is a gift to the broadcast industry, as the commission bends over backwards to give favors to massive media conglomerates like Sinclair. What’s more, the FCC is attempting to ram through this deregulation without doing its homework. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has directed the agency — three times — to examine how its media ownership rule changes impact broadcast ownership diversity. Shamefully, and in direct violation of the court’s orders, no proper evaluation has occurred.
“Meanwhile, people of color own a pathetically low number of broadcast stations in the U.S., and consolidation makes it much more difficult for broadcasters of color to enter the market. This latest move by the Pai FCC is patently discriminatory.
“In effect, our filing says enough is enough to an agency that keeps failing to do its homework and fulfill its statutory mandate. This FCC seems intent on looking the other way as people in the U.S. brace for a new wave of media mergers. Runaway consolidation gouges newsrooms and hurts communities — especially marginalized communities that more often depend on broadcast TV for local news. The courts must step in to avert this impending disaster and protect the public from Pai’s pro-consolidation plans.”