Tuesday, May 04, 2021

In upholding FCC rule on broadcast and newspaper ownership, Supreme Court expands list of possible buyers

The Supreme Court last week unanimously upheld a Federal Communications Commission decision to deregulate ownership of television stations, including the ownership of a station and a newspaper in the same market. For newspapers looking to sell, the ruling expands the list of potential buyers.

"The commission proposed the rule change in 2017 under Trump-appointed FCC chair Ajit Pai," Jody Simon reports for JDSupra. A lower court overturned the changes, saying the FCC didn't adequately consider the effect its changes would have on broadcast media ownership by women and racial minorities. but proponents of the changes "argued that they were long overdue," Simon reports. "Local TV and newspapers have long been facing stiff headwinds, first from cable competition and now from hyper-targeted digital advertising on Google and Facebook. The mom-and-pop broadcast outlets and local station groups would be doomed unless they can join deep-pocketed national station groups."

However, Simon writes, "the argument for continued diversity has its appeal, however, when one looks at Sinclair Broadcasting, a large station group that made headlines for forcing the news broadcasts of its stations to run right wing segments. Even short of a conservative takeover of local news, widespread consolidation could result in homogenization and the loss of independent voices."

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