High Court Won’t Review Deregulation Case

Jun 13, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Firing the starting gun in the lobbying battle over media ownership rules at the Federal Communications Commission and on Capitol Hill, the Supreme Court has announced its refusal to review a federal appeals court decision that threw out a controversial FCC effort to relax the regulations last year.

In a threat to the legal rationale for broadcast ownership restrictions, TV network and newspaper owners had urged the high court to use the case to overturn Red Lion-the landmark 1969 decision by the high court that established the justification for many radio and TV industry rules. But the court’s decision Monday punts all the deregulatory issues back to the FCC, which will either have to pass on deregulation or try to deregulate again without raising the hackles of the justices on the Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

“The ball is back in the FCC’s court,” said Andy Schwartzman, president of the activist Media Access Project, which led the charge against the deregulation in the appeals court. “They [the FCC] have to redo their decision, this time without a bias in favor of deregulation.”

Added Jeff Chester, executive director of the watchdog Center for Digital Democracy, in a written statement: “Now Big Media’s political flacks will swarm over the FCC and Congress, plying their lobbying wares (money, airtime, revolving door employment). [FCC] Chairman [Kevin] Martin needs to get the facts-not the media industry spin. If he pursues a [former FCC Chairman] Michael Powell, ‘I don’t need the facts because I know the facts,’ approach, his tenure will be marked with a similar legal and public disgrace.”