April 1 (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a 2017 rule rolling back longstanding limits on local ownership of media outlets.
In a unanimous decision, the high court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission may begin loosening restrictions on media ownership including eliminating a rule that limited the number of radio stations, television stations and newspapers a single entity may own in a given market.
“The FCC considered the record evidence on competition, localism, viewpoint diversity and minority and female ownership and reasonably concluded that the three ownership rules no longer serve the public interest,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote.
In 2017, the FCC voted 3-2 to approve the revisions eliminating a rule generally prohibiting a single individual or company that owns a daily newspaper from owning a radio or TV station in the same market and a similar stipulation regarding cross-ownership of radio and TV stations.
It also repealed a rule known as the “eight-voices test,” which prevented a station owner from purchasing another station if it would leave less than eight independently owned stations in the area.
A Philadelphia-based federal appeals court ruled in favor of challengers to the changes, including the non-profit group Prometheus Radio Project, blocking the repeals from taking effect.
In ruling to overturn the lower court’s decision, Kavanaugh wrote that the FCC found “the historical justification for those ownership rules no longer apply in today’s media market and that permitting efficient combinations among radio stations, television stations and newspapers would benefit consumers.”
FCC acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel issued a statement expressing discontent with the ruling, noting the limited data FCC, under the previous administration, used in assessing the effects the changes would have on female and minority ownership.
“While I am disappointed by the court’s decision, the values that have long upheld our media policies — competition, localism and diversity — remain strong. I am committed to ensuring that these principles guide this agency as we move forward.”