Commentary

Supreme Court Must Repeal Newspaper-Broadcast Ownership Ban

The U.S. Supreme Court this week began hearing oral arguments in an appeal that will decide whether the same company can own a broadcast station and newspaper in a local market. The prohibition on cross-ownership was intended to prevent a single news source from dominating a community, but has become outdated with the rise of digital media.

The lawsuit, Federal Communications Commission v. Prometheus Radio Project, centers on the agency's move in 2017 to relax rules on broadcaster ownership. The wide-ranging reforms included a measure to get rid of a 45-year-old restriction that prevented cross-ownership of local newspapers and TV stations.

Over the years, the FCC granted temporary waivers to the rule in select markets and grandfathered others. The New York Times was allowed to own radio station WQXR, while the publisher of the Chicago Tribune -- the "World's Greatest Newspaper" -- held on to its WGN radio and TV stations for years.
The rules against cross-ownership were well intended; the goal was to give consumers more choices for information. But the media market has changed drastically since the FCC introduced the rules in the 1970s. Local newspapers and broadcast stations have seen steep drops in advertising revenue amid competition from internet search and social media.
Limits on cross-ownership won't bring back that revenue; it merely prevents local media outlets from pooling their resources to better compete with digital rivals. Ideally, the market would allow these media outlets to thrive and compete for audiences, but the economics of the producing original news have become untenable.
The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has repeatedly blocked the FCC's efforts to reform the ownership rules, leading the agency to plead its case before the Supreme Court. A decision by the high court to overturn the Third Circuit’s ruling in the FCC case would be a positive step toward allowing cross-ownership of local newspapers and broadcasters.

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1 comment about "Supreme Court Must Repeal Newspaper-Broadcast Ownership Ban".
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  1. Mark Dubis from The Dubis Group, January 20, 2021 at 12:11 p.m.

    I feel this ban should remain in place, because although there are numerous social media channels, we have seen how "tech censorship" can shutdown any opposing views on any topic that is not embraced by the view of the social media culture.  

    Allowing the singular ownership of TV and print media in a given community will certainly stifle free speech and limit voices in that market. The only way that ownership should be allowed is if and when there are laws prohiting any media company from banning comments that do not violate the laws of our country.  This is what is being proposed in Poland and puts legal punishment and fines on companies who remove content that does not violate any law. 

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