Federal judges yesterday issued a slanderous reprimand to the Federal Communications Commission, saying that the agency's reason for eliminating media ownership limits "would receive a declining grade in which preferably the introductory statistics class. "
The FCC's decision to eliminate newspaper / broadcast and TV / radio ownership in 201
The FCC order of 2017 had to consider instructions from previous decisions of the Third Circuit that went against the commission. But the FCC did not comply with the court's instructions, the judge's ruling states.
The "most glaring" problem in the FCC analysis is that it "cited no evidence of gender diversity," the judges wrote. The FCC argued in a court filing that "no data on female ownership were available" but also "allegedly [ed] to have followed our instructions to assess both racial and gender diversity and repeatedly formulate its conclusion in terms covering both areas," judge wrote.
"A failing grade"
The FCC's failure to seriously address the impact on female ownership would be "enough to justify custody" on its own, the judges said. But the FCC also failed to properly examine the evidence of minority possession, they said. The FCC's analysis of evidence of racial minority ownership "is so invaluable that it would have a failing grade in any initial statistics class," the judge's ruling said.
The FCC error goes back to a 2016 decision when Tom Wheeler was given the chair. The decision in 2016 only made minor changes to the inter-company rules, but the evidence cited in that decision will later be used by Chairman Ajit Pai to eliminate the rules completely in 2017, the judge wrote.
The FCC order from 2016 compared two different sets of data on minority owned stations. But comparing the two data sets, one collected by the FCC and the other by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), "is clearly an exercise in comparing apples to oranges, and the Commission does not appear to have recognized this problem or made every effort to fix it, "the judges wrote.
The perception continued:
Although we could treat the use of these two datasets as reliable, the FCC's statistical conclusions are sadly simplified. They only compare the absolute number of minority owned stations at different times, and make no effort to check for possible confounding variables. The simplest of these would be the total number of stations that exist. For example, we do not know whether the percentage of minority-owned stations went up or down from 1999 to 2009.
The 2017 order that eliminated cross-company rules "called for the same evidence as the 2016 report & Order to conclude that this would not have significance for the diversity of ownership, "wrote Judge.
The newspaper / broadcasting state's interference rule that the FCC eliminated prohibits a single entity from owning a broadcasting power station and daily newspaper in the same market. The radio / TV rule limits how many radio and TV stations a unit can own in one market.
Yesterday's verdict also set aside an FCC order of 2018 that created an "incubator" program designed to help new entrants in the broadcasting industry. The FCC's definition of "newcomer" made "no apparent reference to race, gender or social disadvantage," the court said. The court decision said that none of the vacated orders adequately assessed the effect on diversity in ownership of broadcast media.
In addition to vacating two of Pai's orders in its entirety, the court also abandoned part of the FCC decision of 2016. The vacated portion of the 2016 decision was related to a rule designed to increase ownership opportunities for "eligible entities. "as companies owned by minorities or women. The FCC defined "eligible entity" based on revenue to promote small business ownership, but yesterday's ruling rejected the revenue-based definition, saying that the FCC must assess the impact of the definition on women and minority ownership.
FCC to appeal
The FCC "intends [s] to seek further review" of the judge's ruling, Pai said yesterday. Pai argued that the judges ignored evidence in their ruling:
For more than twenty years, Congress has asked the Federal Communications Commission to review its media ownership rules and revise or repeal the rules that are no longer needed. But for the past 15 years, a majority of the same third-party panel has taken the authority on its own, blocking any attempt to modernize this regulation to match the obvious realities of the modern media market. It has become quite clear that there is no evidence or justification – newspapers that go out of business, broadcast radio, broadcast TV in the face of stronger competition than ever – that will persuade them to change their minds. "
Pai had claimed in 2017 that newspaper / broadcast across ownership, published in 1975, was made obsolete by cable news and news sources on the web.
" With the newspaper industry in crisis, it makes no sense to place regulatory roadblocks in the road for those who want to buy newspapers, "Pai said at the time." The media landscape has changed dramatically over the last 42 years, and the idea that a company can dominate a media market by owning a radio station and newspaper is nonsense. " FCC Democrats applaud court decision
Republican FCC commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O & # 39; Rielly also issued statements criticizing the court decision yesterday. However, the commission's two Democrats supported the decision. [1 9659003]" The court sent rightly back to the agency because FCC's analysis was so "unimportant", "said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel." The FCC should not be in the business of cutting corners when it comes to honoring our long-standing values when updating media owner guidelines. . "
Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said yesterday that the court" rejected the agency's deregulation efforts because of a failure to assess the effect of these policy changes on station ownership of women and people of color. Unfortunately, the miniscule [sic] speaks to the number of different owners in this country for themselves. "
" Today's opinion is clear: FCC's approach to setting our media's ownership rules needs a dramatic overhaul, "Starks said." We need to revive our goals of promoting competition, localism and diversity. We can no longer cope with the bad data and bad analyzes – issues that have been all too often highlighted by courts and interested observers in recent years. " This was the fourth time the Third Circuit Court" rejected some or all of the FCC's attempts on deregulation over the past 15 years due to the agency's failure to study the public impact of its policy changes, "said the Free Press spokesman. Free Press was one of the public interest groups that sued the commission.
" The ruling is a huge victory for audience, "Vice President Jessica González said." It exhorts Trump the FCC for its complete failure to assess the impact of ownership policy on women and people of color. This marks the fourth time this court has rejected the merciless attempts by the FCC and the broadcasting industry to weaken the media ownership boundary regardless of the damage such drastic deregulation would lead to communities. "