FCC Chairman Ajit Pai circulated a statement after the Third Court of Appeals rejected the Commission’s most recent attempt to modernize ownership rules. The court concluded that the Commission did not “adequately consider the effect its sweeping rule changes will have on ownership of broadcast media by women and racial minorities.”
Here’s what The Chairman had to say. “For more than twenty years, Congress has instructed the Federal Communications Commission to review its media ownership regulations and revise or repeal those rules that are no longer necessary. But for the last fifteen years, a majority of the same Third Circuit panel has taken that authority for themselves, blocking any attempt to modernize these regulations to match the obvious realities of the modern media marketplace. It’s become quite clear that there is no evidence or reasoning—newspapers going out of business, broadcast radio struggling, broadcast TV facing stiffer competition than ever—that will persuade them to change their minds. We intend to seek further review of today’s decision and are optimistic that the views set forth today in Judge Scirica’s well-reasoned opinion ultimately will carry the day.”
Commissioner Geoffrey Starks agreed with the opinion of the court and said he shared Judge Ambro’s frustration. “As Judge Ambro wrote in today’s opinion: ‘Here we go again.’ I share the Court’s exasperation and frustration. Four times they’ve told us that we need to do better on our analysis with regard to diversity – and it is time to do so now. For nearly all of the 21st century, the FCC has ignored its statutory obligation to promote diversity in broadcasting. Instead, inexplicably, time and again its efforts seem designed to support greater media consolidation – a goal that is not present in our statute. Today, the Third Circuit rejected the agency’s deregulatory efforts because of a failure to consider the impact of these policy changes on station ownership by women and people of color. Unfortunately, the miniscule number of diverse owners in this country speaks for itself.
“Today’s opinion is clear: the FCC’s approach to setting our media ownership rules needs a dramatic overhaul. We must recommit to our goals of promoting competition, localism, and diversity. We can no longer get by with the bad data and shoddy analysis – problems that have been highlighted far too often by courts and interested observers in recent years. The Court here suggests that ‘new empirical research’ may be required to fully satisfy our rulemaking requirements. I wholeheartedly agree. Needless to say, today’s decision will require us to go back to the drawing board on our underway 2018 Quadrennial Review, which relies upon much of the same analysis as the orders vacated by the Court today.”