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Court Lifts Cross-Ownership Ban Stay

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Newspapers and broadcasters finally caught a regulatory break. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Tuesday (March 23) lifted the stay on the Federal Communications Commission's ban on a media company owning a newspaper and TV station in the same market.

A briefing on the rule will begin May 17. Until then, the FCC's 2008 order to relax the media ownership rules—including duopoly rules and the cross-ownership of broadcast stations and newspaper in the top 20 markets—is in effect.

The stay on the rules was put into place when the FCC's majority changed from Republican to Democrat.

"We're pleased that the court has taken an initial step that could lead to modest reform of outdated media ownership rules," said Dennis Wharton, evp of the National Association of Broadcasters.

Others weren't so pleased, concerned that local news would be sacrificed at the hand of reduced competition. "We are disappointed that the Third Circuit decided to lift the stay and allow the relaxed newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule from the Kevin Martin–era to go into effect. Vibrant local news is vital for our democracy, and without competition, newsmakers and media is less accountable. Evidence suggests that merging newspaper and broadcast newsrooms hurts jobs and journalism. We hope the Federal Communications Commission will take decisive action to protect media diversity and to encourage competition in local news," said the Free Press in a statement.

The ruling comes as the FCC takes up the quadrennial review of media ownership rules.