The U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia today struck down the FCC's two-year-old ban on joint sales agreements between TV broadcasters and scolded the agency for its failure to complete the last two of its congressionally-mandated quadrennial reviews of all its broadcast ownership rules.
The commission cannot ban JSAs "unless it has, within the previous four years, fulfilled its obligation to review that rule and determine whether it is in the public interest. Here the commission put the cart before the horse," the court said.
“Nearly a decade has passed since the commission last completed a review of its broadcast ownership rules. These rules lay the groundwork for how the broadcast industry operates and have major implications for television, radio, and newspaper organizations. Although federal law commands the commission to conduct a review of its rules every four years, the 2006 cycle is the last one it has finished; the 2010 and 2014 reviews remain open.
"Several broadcast owners have petitioned us to wipe all the rules off the books in response to this delay — creating, in effect, complete deregulation in the industry. This is the administrative law equivalent of burning down the house to roast the pig, and we decline to order it. However, we note that this remedy, while extreme, might be justified in the future if the commission does not act quickly to carry out its legislative mandate.”
The commission’s delay keeps five broadcast ownership rules in limbo: the local television ownership rule, the local radio ownership rule, the newspaper/broadcast crossownership rule, the radio/television crossownership rule, and the dual network rule.