Tribune, 3 Networks Prepare Appeal to Supreme Court

NEW YORK Tribune Co. and three television networks plan to appeal to the Supreme Court an appeals court ruling that blocks media companies from acquiring more local TV stations and newspapers.

The Bush administration said yesterday it would not fight the earlier ruling, which threw out the Federal Communications Commission’s recent relaxation of media-ownership regulations.

The previous regulations, which now remain in force, prohibit a company from owning both a newspaper and a television or radio station in one market, or two television stations in the same market.

The media companies’ appeal will claim that the appeals panel abridged their First Amendment and due process rights. “A cable system can own a local TV station, but a newspaper can’t,” said Tribune representative Shaun Sheehan. “That’s discriminatory.”

News Corp.’s Fox, Viacom’s CBS and General Electric’s NBC also will ask the high court to review the case.

After a federal appeals court in June ordered the FCC to review its loosened media-ownership rules, the FCC received about 2 million critical letters. The overturned rules, passed in 2003, would have allowed a company to own in one city a daily newspaper, three TV stations, eight radio stations and a cable system.

Sheehan said he was hopeful that Tribune could win waivers in Los Angeles, Chicago and three other cities where it owns both a newspaper and a television station.

—Editor & Publisher staff report