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.