In a move protecting independent and progressive media voices, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit blocked implementation of several Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules that would have facilitated media conglomerates' consolidation. The FCC regulations, which were voted on in 2003, loosened restrictions on media companies’ ownership of multiple broadcast sources, including allowing control of several media arenas within one city. An FCC measure to allow national television networks to reach a greater percentage of the population (up from 35 percent to the current 39 percent) has already taken effect.
The federal court’s decision comes on the tails of a Senate vote on June 21 to repeal the FCC rules. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) called the FCC regulations “one of the most complete cave-ins to corporate interests against public interest in the history of the country,” according to The New York Times. The Bush administration and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) had previously attempted to block key votes in Congress that would repeal the FCC rules, putting Bush and other big business supporters in direct opposition to public outcry, The Nation notes. Public interest groups representing voices ranging from the National Rifle Association to Ms. magazine rallied together against the FCC rules last year. A mere 10 percent of the American public is supportive of the FCC measures, a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and Press discovered, according to Salon.com.
The Washington Post noted that FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell’s push to consolidate media ownership is especially ironic considering that the FCC is charged with maintaining “localism, diversity, and competition” in the media marketplace. Although the FCC inundated Congress last year with a flood of data, charts, and graphs describing why consolidation would be beneficial, the appeals court ruled that the deregulatory policies were based on specious reasoning. FCC has to present a stronger justification before the rules are implemented. It is unclear whether or not the FCC will push their appeal onward to the Supreme Court in the face of clear public disapproval.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .