NAB Goes To Court Over Ownership Rules

The trade group says the FCC’s ownership rules have “left broadcasters to labor under outdated and unnecessary restrictions … that harm their ability to compete and indeed survive in today's digital media marketplace.”

NAB has filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit challenging the FCC’s media ownership order as “arbitrary and capricious.” It is not alone, yesterday the newspaper trade group, the News Media Alliance, also filed to overturn the FCC’s rules, especially the broadcast-newspaper crossownership ban.

It challenged the commission’s finding earlier this year in its required every-four-year review of its broadcast ownership rules, saying that “despite the obvious transformative changes m the media landscape in the decade since the commission’s last completed quadrennial review, the commission failed to take a fresh look at the broadcast ownership rules and to repeal or modify them in light of those changes. Instead, it relied largely on its conclusions in past reviews that the rules should be retained and then reaffirmed each one — with only minor modifications.

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“It also readopted the restriction on joint sales agreements, which effectively tightened the commission’s local television rule, and imposed new reporting requirements for all television shared service agreements.”

NAB went on to say that “The broadcast ownership rules are relics of a long-gone era. Many have not been updated in several decades, despite dramatic evolution in the communications landscape that has eroded the rules’ original public-interest justifications and fundamentally altered the nature of competition — such as the decline of print newspapers, the meteoric rise of the Internet, and the explosion of multichannel and digital video and audio options for consumers.”

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NAB’s filing also said that Congress enacted the quadrennial rules review “precisely to prevent outdated rules like these from becoming permanently entrenched and, instead, to ensure that the commission regularly and meaningfully revisits the rules so that their constraints remain necessary in light of current competitive conditions.” Instead, NAB said, “the commission has left broadcasters to labor under outdated and unnecessary restrictions (as well as new restrictions and other obligations) that harm their ability to compete and indeed survive in today’s digital media marketplace.”

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