Court Refuses to Transfer FCC Case


In a setback for NBC, CBS and Fox, a federal court has refused to transfer an
important media-ownership case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C.

The three networks (ABC did not participate), in an effort supported by the
Federal Communications Commission, sought to have the case moved from the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia. They argued that the
D.C. Circuit was the proper venue because that court had issued two rulings on
which the FCC partly based new broadcast-ownership rules, adopted in June.

In a ruling Monday afternoon, a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit voted
2-1 to retain the case.

"This court is no less qualified than any other Court of Appeals to determine
whether the FCC has appropriately considered the public interest in its
decision-making," wrote Circuit Judge Julio M. Fuentes in an order joined by
Circuit Judge Thomas L. Ambro.

Chief Judge Anthony J. Scirica supported moving the case to the D.C. court,
saying that court is a frequent venue of FCC litigation and Federal Appeals
Courts should minimize the risk of issuing rulings that transmit conflicting
instructions to the FCC.

On Sept. 3, the Third Circuit panel unanimously voted to stay the FCC's new
broadcast-ownership rules, which generally allowed ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox to
control more local TV stations and also allowed newspapers, TV stations and
radio stations to combine within their local markets.

The Third Circuit is moving the case on an expedited basis, scheduling oral
arguments for Wednesday, Nov. 5, with a decision expected in the first quarter
of 2004.