Third Circuit Court Tells FCC To Get Moving On 'Eligible Entity' Definition, Quadrennial Review, Strikes Down TV JSA Restriction
May 25, 2016 at 10:16 AM (PT)
In a ruling that came down TODAY (5/25) the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the FCC to decide once and for all on a definition of "eligible entity" for minority and female preference purposes and, while telling the Commission to get moving on its Quadrennial Review, declined to strike down all present ownership rules as some petitioners had requested. The court also struck down the FCC's restriction of Joint Sales and Shared Services Agreements for television ownership.
Noting that it had previously put the FCC on notice that a definition of "eligible entity" was due five years ago and that the Commission failed to comply, the court rejected the Commission's argument that it had not failed to comply because the order was tied to the 2010 Quadrennial Review, which has not been completed: "By this logic, the Commission could delay another decade or more without running afoul of our remand. Simply put, it cannot evade our remand merely by keeping the 2010 review open indefinitely."
"In sum," the court wrote, "we conclude that the Commission has delayed too long on the eligible entity definition, and we remand and order mediation; we decline to vacate the whole universe of broadcast ownership rules that are subject to § 202(h), but we remind the Commission of its obligation to complete its Quadrennial Review responsibilities; and we vacate the television JSA rule and remand the matter to the Commission.
"This is our third go-round with the Commission’s broadcast ownership rules and diversity initiatives. Rarely does a trilogy benefit from a sequel. To that end, we are hopeful that our decision here brings this saga to its conclusion."
NAB EVP/Communications DENNIS WHARTON commented, “NAB could not be more pleased with the Third Circuit decision. At long last, this opinion directs the FCC to do its job and adopt broadcast ownership rules that reflect the modern world. We’re particularly delighted the court highlights the irrationality of a rule that bars broadcast/newspaper combinations in the same market. This rule needs to be ended immediately. And finally, we’re pleased the court strikes down the FCC’s punitive joint sales agreement order. JSAs are clearly in the public interest – as Congress has decided – and allow free and local broadcasters a chance to compete against national pay TV conglomerates.”