WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday turned away several appeals from broadcast and newspaper groups that sought to restore new government rules easing restrictions on media ownership.
Without comment, justices let stand a lower court ruling that threw out the Federal Communications Commission (search) regulations as unjustified.
The agency now must take a second shot at revising its older set of ownership rules that the media groups say are inadequate to address the burgeoning cable television, satellite broadcasting and Internet markets.
The proposed changes would have allowed a single company to own TV stations and a newspaper in the same area, and to own more TV and radio stations in a single market. But critics, including many in Congress, said that would encourage mergers and stifle diversity in news and entertainment.
The appeals were filed by the Newspaper Association of America (search), Tribune Co. (TRB), National Association of Broadcasters (search) and Media General (MEG). Also joining the appeals were Gannett Co. (GCI), the nation's largest newspaper publisher; Belo Corp. (BLC); Morris Communications; as well as CBS, Fox and NBC.
News Corp. is the parent company of the Fox News Channel, which operates FOXNews.com.
The media groups argued that the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should have upheld the new FCC rules in deference to the agency's expertise.
Restoring the looser restrictions would ensure that newspapers and broadcasters deliver high-quality news and "remain competitive in today's increasingly challenging multimedia environment," the filing from the Newspaper Association states.
The FCC, which chose not to pursue its own appeal after the 3rd Circuit of Appeals decision, urged justices in filings to turn away the media groups' request. The FCC said it first should be given a chance to come up with new rules that could pass judicial muster under the 3rd Circuit ruling.
In 2003, the Republican-dominated FCC completed two years of study and voted 3-2 along party lines to ease ownership restrictions.
The 3rd Circuit blocked the changes, writing that the FCC "has not sufficiently justified its particular chosen numerical limits for local television ownership, local radio ownership, or cross-ownership of media within local markets."
The cases are Media General v. FCC, 04-1020; National Association of Broadcasters v. FCC, 04-1033; Tribune Co. v. FCC, 04-1036; Newspaper Association of America, 04-1045; FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project, 04-1168; and Sinclair Broadcast Group v. FCC 04-1177.