April 01, 2020 Feature

The Third Circuit and the FCC’s Media Ownership Rules

By Christian F. Binnig, Christopher S. Comstock, and Elaine Liu

Over the last 15 years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) has repeatedly proposed rules to deregulate media ownership in an effort to help broadcasters better compete with internet content providers and other new competitors through consolidation. But this decade-and-a-half exercise has suffered from more than a bit of what Yogi Berra would call “déjà vu all over again.” The same panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has reviewed the FCC’s proposed rules multiple times, and has stayed and remanded many of the FCC’s proposed rule changes. In particular, the Third Circuit panel repeatedly has held that the FCC’s proposed rules fail to properly prioritize encouraging diversity in broadcast stations’ ownership structures. The panel—made up of Circuit Judges Thomas L. Ambro, Julio M. Fuentes, and Anthony J. Scirica—has taken the unusual step of retaining jurisdiction over the judicial review proceedings throughout the entirety of their 15-year history.

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