Supreme Court Won’t Examine Media Ownership Rules

Rules have been tied up in lower courts for decades

Media companies, in general, want to be able to own lots of other media companies, regardless of whether these companies compete in the same market. But broadcasters and newspaper companies will have to wait for another day to get a hearing before the Supreme Court on media ownership rules, which have been tied up in the lower courts for decades.

The Supreme Court Friday denied petitions from a group of media companies, including The National Association of Broadcasters, Tribune and Media General, asking the high court to overturn a decision made by the Third Court of Appeals last July. That decision upheld the Federal Communications Commission rules governing how many TV stations a company can own in a market (known as the TV duopoly rule) and restricted companies from owning a TV station and a newspaper in the same market.

The NAB, Tribune and Media General want to be free to own multiple media companies in a single market. In thier petitions to the high court, the companies argued that given the explosion of digital media, cable and satellite, the Federal Communications Commission's rules constrain their ability to compete and should go the way of the dinosaur.

But with the Federal Communications Commission currently in the process of its quadrennial review of the rules, the petition was considered a long shot.

This was the second time the Supreme Court denied broadcaster pleas to reconsider the constitutionality of the media ownership rules.

"That decision [in 2005] also affirmed the FCC's ability to limit media consolidation to promote competition and diversity in local media markets," said Corie Wright, senior policy counsel for Free Press, one of the public interest groups that has fought back any attempt to loosen the rules.

Broadcasters aren't giving up. "We're disappointed the Supreme Court declined to review rules that limit local broadcasters' ability to compete with our national and multinational pay programming competitors. NAB will continue to advocate for modernizing ownership rules that step from an era of 'I Love Lucy,'" said Dennis Wharton, executive vp of the NAB.