April 1, 2021
Decided April 1, 2021
FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project, No. 19 1231; and
Nat’l Ass’n of Broadcasters v. Prometheus Radio Project, No. 19 1241
Today, the Supreme Court held 9-0 that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) permissibly relaxed three decades-old rules limiting ownership of broadcast stations as part of its quadrennial regulatory review under § 202(h) of the Telecommunications Act.
Section 202(h) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 directs the FCC to review its media ownership rules every four years and to “repeal” or “modify” any rule that is no longer “necessary in the public interest as the result of competition.” In the FCC’s most recent review, it modified or eliminated three decades-old restrictions on the ownership of radio stations, television stations, and newspapers because it concluded that substantial competitive changes had rendered the prior rules unnecessary. No party challenged that competition analysis, but the Third Circuit nonetheless vacated the FCC’s order because it concluded that the FCC had inadequately considered the effect of its rule changes on minority and female ownership, a factor that does not appear in Section 202(h).
Did the FCC permissibly relax its media ownership rules under Section 202(h) based on a finding that they were no longer necessary as the result of competition?
The FCC permissibly relaxed its media ownership rules because it considered the record evidence and reasonably concluded that the rules no longer serve the public interest. The FCC further reasonably explained that its rule changes were not likely to harm minority and female ownership.
“[T]he FCC’s analysis was reasonable and reasonably explained for purposes of the APA’s deferential arbitrary-and-capricious standard.”
Justice Kavanaugh, writing for the Court
What It Means:
The Court’s opinion is available here.
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