The Supreme Court Thursday upheld a Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) order making changes to media ownership rules. Overturning a Third Circuit ruling, the Court found that the agency met the necessary procedural requirements under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
The FCC is the federal agency responsible for the regulation of radio, television, and other media communications all across the United States. Pursuant to the Telecommunications Act, the FCC is required to review ownership rules every four years to ensure such limits and restrictions serve the public interest.
In 2017, the FCC made several changes to ownership rules. It eliminated the prohibition on a single entity owning a radio or television broadcast station, and the agency repealed a rule that placed a limit on the number of combined stations an entity is permitted to own within a single market. The FCC also made modifications to the restriction limiting local television ownership by an entity in a single market.
Prometheus Radio Project challenged the changes, contending that the FCC’s decision to repeal and modify these rules was arbitrary and capricious. The group specifically argued that the agency relied on flawed data in determining that there would be no harm to minority and female ownership.
The Supreme Court disagreed, noting that the FCC made requests for additional data without response, and the evidence the agency relied on suggested that there would be no harm to minority and female ownership.
Justice Kavanaugh, writing for the court, said, “[The] FCC’s analysis was reasonable and reasonably explained for purposes of APA deferential arbitrary-and-capricious standard.” The Court further stated that the FCC “considered the record evidence on competition, localism, viewpoint diversity, and minority and female ownership, and reasonably concluded that the three ownership rules no longer serve the public interest.”
Some believe that the ruling could lead to consolidation in the media industry.