Court Overrules FCC’s Pro-Big Media Rules

Court rejects FCC ownership rules in historic victory!

June 25, 2004 |

On June 24, 2004, a federal appeals court overturned the FCC’s dramatic loosening of media ownership rules, handing the public a historic victory. The court’s ruling sends the FCC?s controversial rules — which relaxed the limits on newspaper, TV, and radio ownership — back to the drawing board.

The decision is a tremendous victory for media diversity, localism, and for the general public, including the millions of citizens who have been writing, e-mailing and calling the FCC and Congress to protest the FCC’s caving in to Big Media.

The most significant aspects of the court ruling:

  • The court rejected the FCC’s rule changes which allowed for “cross-ownership” of newspapers and broadcast stations, and the concentration of broadcast ownership, in local markets. Together, these rules would have allowed one company to own three TV stations, 8 radio stations, and the monopoly newspaper in a single market.

  • The court took aim at the FCC’s faulty methodology, including the so-called “diversity index”, used by the agency to measure the influence of different kinds of media on local communities.

  • Critically, the court also rejected the FCC’s claim that ownership limits should be removed unless evidence could be shown to warrant their staying in place. The court instead placed the burden of proof on the FCC, stating that unless sufficient evidence can be shown to warrant their removal, media ownership limits should be kept in place.

Take action

Now that the court has sent media ownership rules back to the drawing board, we need citizens to step up once again. This time around, let’s make sure the FCC listens to the public, not Big Media lobbyists, when it crafts ownership rules: Demand a public FCC hearing in every state!


Read a summary of the ruling here.


Here’s what media reformers and consumer advocates are saying about the outcome:

Free Press

Prometheus Radio Project

Media Access Project

Consumers Union


News articles regarding the outcome of the case:

L.A. Times:

FCC ordered to rewrite rules easing TV station ownership

New York Times:

Court orders rethinking of rules allowing large media to expand

Washington Post:

Court rejects rules on media ownership

Chicago Tribune:

Court turns back FCC changes

Setback for Big Media

Multichannel News:

Court nixes new FCC media ownership rules

Broadcasting & Cable:

Commissioners hail media owner ruling

Court throws out FCC’s media ownership rules

The Guardian (UK):

US court blocks media ownership reform


Court overturns FCC ownership caps

Court throws out FCC’s media deregulation package

Bloomberg News:
FCC media ownership rules sent back for agency review


On August 13, 2003, attorneys from the Media Access Project, working with the Philadelphia-based Prometheus Radio Project and a coalition of other groups, asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to throw out the media ownership rules modified by the FCC on June 2 ( click here for background on the rule changes). The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals stayed the FCC’s order on Sept. 3rd, 2003 — meaning it prevented the new rules from being enforced until court review is complete.

Many of the organizations involved, including MAP and Prometheus, have provided resources on their websites regarding the case.

From the Media Access Project
Report from MAP (PDF)

An Overview of Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC

Statements, filings and background
Press release on the February 11 arguments (PDF)

From Other Sources
Press Statement from Prometheus Radio
Summary of arguments from Consumers Union (pdf)

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