Last-Minute Court Action Halts Media Ownership Rule Changes

Everybody owes a round of thanks and praise to the Prometheus Radio Project, who filed an emergency petition to stop the implementation of the FCC’s media ownership rule changes, which were scheduled to go into effect tomorrow. After a two-hour hearing in Philadelphia today a three-judge panel of the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals granted the stay, suspending all rule changes until Prometheus’ case gets a proper hearing on its merits.
In a  three-page decision, after deferring a chance to predict the success of Prometheus’ challenge to the media ownership rules, the court agreed that the challenge deserved full consideration before the rule changes were implemented, especially “given the magnitude of this matter and the public’s interest in reaching the proper resolution.”
The 3rd Circuit has made several documents in the case available online (in .pdf format), which is somewhat unique for the federal courts: usually the turnaround time for the release of decisions is not this fast, and the release of several original documents filed in the case is rare indeed. The court is obviously aware that millions of people are paying attention now.
The Prometheus challenge is one of nine potential lawsuits seeking to suspend or overturn the FCC’s media ownership rule changes; two others have been filed on behalf of the public and seek to suspend or repeal the rule changes in the name of media democracy. The rest of the suits are courtesy of media companies who don’t think the FCC went far enough (Fox, NBC, Viacom, and the National Association of Broadcasters are among them).
Preliminary e-mail reaction from Prometheus’ Pete triDish:
“…the stay is just one step of a long legal process, which we could lose in at any stage. It has created time for the political process to work without the rule changes becoming a fait accompli. There will be many reconsiderations and legal actions, and we will win some of these and we will lose some of these – but the real power is in people being active. Today at the hearing, all of the judges mentioned the millions of comments, and were obviously very influenced by the attention that the issue is getting from the public. So keep it up! Tell people that when enough people pay attention and put their hearts in – we win!”
Tomorrow the Senate Appropriations Committee will consider legislation to bitch-slap the FCC; media companies began a major lobbying blitzkrieg on Capitol Hill this week trying to fend off the congressional end-run.