The U.S. Supreme Court last week upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s wrongheaded decision to allow more media consolidation.
This comes amid a crisis in local journalism, an epidemic of misinformation and growing division undermining America’s democracy. Media consolidation and the resulting disinvestment in local news are worsening these problems.
The FCC, as reconfigured by President Joe Biden, should revisit the issue and restore limits on cross-ownership of media outlets.
Specifically, the agency should restore rules preventing media companies from owning both a newspaper and radio or TV stations in a single market, and limiting the number of radio and TV stations a company can own in one market.
These rules, adopted in the 1970s, are needed to preserve the diversity of local media and prevent further consolidation.
They were whittled away starting in the 1980s and finally discarded by the FCC in 2017, prompting a federal lawsuit by Prometheus Radio Project, a Philadelphia-based advocacy group.
An appeals court upheld the FCC’s decision but found it didn’t adequately consider the effect on minority and female ownership of media outlets.
On April 1, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the FCC decision and accepted its ownership-diversity analysis. Justices decided that even if the FCC’s diversity data wasn’t great, its decision wasn’t capricious and the commission still had authority to change the rules.
“In assessing the effects of the rule changes on minority and female ownership, the FCC did not have perfect empirical or statistical data,” the court wrote. “But that is not unusual in day-to-day agency decision making within