Courts, Congress Move on FCC Media Rules

As was somewhat expected, the Senate approved a Resolution of Disapproval yesterday which would force the FCC to redo its media ownership rulemaking. I’m with Mediageek on the relative importance of this. More interesting was the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to retain jurisdiction over the spate of suits seeking to reverse the FCC’s decision.
Prometheus and the Media Access Project are duly pleased with the decision, and rightly so – when Mikey Powell waves his hands and says “don’t blame me, blame Congress and the courts for making me do it,” he speaks partial truth.
A series of legal challenges brought by media companies, using the Telecommunications Act of 1996 as the chisel, have systematically attacked the FCC’s media ownership rules over the years. This doesn’t excuse how Mikey and friends wrote the rules, but it did provide the impetus to do so.
These challenges have all been conducted in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which traditionally retains exclusive jurisdiction over legal challenges to FCC rules. Motions to transfer the case to D.C. were filed by NBC, Fox, the Sinclair Broadcast Group, and the FCC itself, among others.
The Third Circuit, in its decision Monday, declared itself “no less qualified than any other Court of Appeals to determine whether the FCC has appropriately considered the public interest in its decisionmaking.” Oral argument will take place on November 5.
Keeping the case in Philly doesn’t necessarily increase or decrease the chances that some or all of the rules will be overturned, but the D.C. Circuit’s record of buying the Big Media line would’ve surely resulted in different results.