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FEDERAL COURT PRESERVES STAY OF RULES CALLS FCC DEREGULATORY TENDENCIES 'IRRATIONAL' AND 'INCONSISTENT'
June 24, 2004
In a lengthy decision of over 200 pages, the Third District Court today told the Federal Communications Commission that its attempts to further deregulate the American media system are unjustified. The court determined that the FCC relied on "irrational assumptions and inconsistencies" in determining the new cross-ownership caps, and ordered them to make a new decision that takes seriously their duty to regulate media to preserve the public interest.
The court's decision in this case requires the FCC to reverse its controversial June 2003 decision relaxing the regulation of ownership of the newspaper, television and radio industries. Judges faulted the FCC's methodology in measuring concentration, and rejected the FCC's argument ownership limits should be removed unless evidence could be shown to warrant their retention. With the burden of proof back on the FCC, consumers groups, parents, activist organizations, and even FCC Commissioner Michael Copps joined Prometheus in celebration of the Court's decision. "The rush to media consolidation approved by the FCC last June was wrong as a matter of law and policy," said Commissioner Copps in a released statement. "The commission has a second chance to do the right thing."
"This outstanding decision comes at a time when unprecedented debate on the role of media outlets in Americans' lives is taking place," said Prometheus Program Director Hannah Sassaman. "Thousands of Americans are telling the Commission and everyone who will listen that consolidation is bad for their communities and families. It is of paramount importance that the FCC use that testimony to inform new ownership rules that will preserve and protect America's diverse, local voices."
The Prometheus Radio Project is also currently working to expand the number of Low Power FM (LPFM) Radio stations in the United States. FCC Chairman Michael Powell, Senator John McCain of Arizona, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and many thousands of Americans have looked to LPFM to provide a good source of local, diverse content in an era of profoundly consolidated media. "Senators McCain and Leahy recently proposed Senate Bill 2505, which will, if passed, bring thousands of low-power community radio stations to America's cities and countryside," said Prometheus Technical Director Pete Tridish. "Now that the American people, members of Congress, and the courts have all said that consolidated ownership of media doesn't serve us, we urge Congress to pass this bill, and bring more truly independent media outlets to our country."
Prometheus brought the original motion to stay the rules on behalf of their constituents, the many thousands of Americans fighting to build low power, independent radio stations. The Prometheus Radio Project is an activist organization that fights for more democratic ownership and regulation of media. Prometheus advocates for community organizations that want to start radio stations, and has helped build the first radio stations owned by civil rights and environmental organizations in the United States.
For more information about this case, and the continued work to expand Low Power FM, contact Hannah Sassaman or Pete Tridish at the Prometheus Radio Project.