The never-ending controversy over cross-ownership of print and broadcast media properties continued this week with a new legal assault on government regulations blocking such combinations in major media markets.
The News Media Alliance, previously the Newspaper Association of America, filed a lawsuit contesting the Federal Communications Commission’s most recent affirmation of the cross-ownership ban.
The new lawsuit, filed in the D.C. Circuit, seeks to force the FCC to reconsider its decision on July 12, decided by a party-line vote, to maintain the ban on newspaper publishers owning broadcast TV properties, particularly with reference to local broadcast news stations.
Among other things, the NMA lawsuit against the FCC cites “substantial evidence showing that the Newspaper-Broadcast Cross-Ownership rule is antiquated and no longer serves the public interest.”
Many industry watchers have noted that following the proliferation of digital media, local newspapers and broadcast TV stations are just two news sources among many. They are coming under growing economic pressure from the transition to digital.
In many cases, allowing cross-ownership of these properties in the same markets would enable substantial consolidation and cost savings for both publishers and broadcasters, and Congress mandated the FCC to review the rules against cross-ownership in 2010 and 2014. However the FCC has continued to block cross-ownership on anti-trust grounds.
Explaining the lawsuit, NMA president David Chavern stated: “Our industry provides long-term investigative journalism and local news and public affairs coverage that is intensely important to local communities. It makes no sense at all to prevent newspapers from helping to fund this essential activity by receiving capital and collaboration by an aligned industry such as broadcasting.”
The National Association of Broadcasters is filing a complementary lawsuit against the FCC as well.Congress is already cautioning the FCC, among other Federal agencies, against trying to implement any potentially contested rules or regulations in the final days of the Obama administration. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent a letter signed by House committee leaders urging the agencies to hold off on actions which may run counter to directives from the incoming Trump administration.