McDowell: Court Decision Should Spur Completion Of Reg Review

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Republican Federal Communications Commission commissioner Robert McDowell said Friday that The Third Circuit ruling on the agency's ownership rules puts an exclamation point on the need to wrap up the commission's review of ownership regs per the congressionally mandated quadrennial review.

"Now that the commission has some guidance from the Third Circuit, it is all the more imperative that we move ahead with all deliberate speed with our statutory obligation to review our media ownership rules," he said in a statement to Multichannel News. "The remands from yesterday's decision can, and should, be taken care of in the course of that review, and I would hope that our work would be conducted with deregulation in mind, as section 202H requires." (That is the section of the Communications Act that requires the FCC to review its rules to determine if they are "necessary in the public interest as the result of competition.")

The court Thursday reinstated the broadcast-newspaper cross-ownership ban on procedural grounds, saying the FCC had not given the public enough time to comment on the decision to revise/loosen the ban, which was announced in a New York Times op-ed piece by then-FCC chairman Kevin Martin four weeks before the December 2007 vote. It also remanded back some of the FCC's diversity initiatives, saying they did not do enough, but let stand the decisions not to loosen TV duopoly or other ownership regs.

The court, which ruled on procedural grounds rather than the merits of the change, pointed out that the FCC could remedy that notice and comment issue on cross-ownership in its quadrennial review. In fact, the Third Circuit in an earlier remand, identified lifting the cross-ownership ban entirely, as former FCC chairman Michael Powell had suggested, as one of the deregulatory changes the commission had made a case for.