Guest blogged by Sue Wilson
The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia handed the public a huge victory on Thursday, and giant corporations a rare loss, in their decision [PDF] on a case that (ironically enough, given the subject matter) most of the public knew nothing about, but one which has the potential to benefit real people with better quality news and information for decades to come.
The case, Prometheus Radio Project v FCC, pitted "Citizen Petitioners" who seek more persons owning local media outlets to ensure diversity in viewpoints and news coverage, versus "Deregulatory Petitioners" who want fewer persons (spell that "corporations") to own local media outlets, and the publicly-owned broadcast airwaves that go with them, in order to enhance their profits.
At stake were the rules determining how many local TV and radio stations one company can own in a single market; whether a newspaper owner can also own a TV or radio station in the same town; and how broadcast ownership by minorities and women should be handled.
The Deregulators challenged the FCC's constitutional and legal authority to set rules and restrictions on ownership of broadcast spectrum licenses, while the Citizen Petitioners sought to protect the FCC's authority, even while challenging a number of new rules the agency speciously attempted to enact without appropriate public input.
Six attorneys representing Free Press, Media Alliance, The United Church of Christ, and Prometheus Radio Project went up against 48 lawyers representing such corporate behemoths as Clear Channel, CBS, Belo, FOX, Cox, Sinclair, Tribune, and Gannett, and groups including the National Association of Broadcasters, plus another 8 attorneys for the FCC and 5 more from the US Department of Justice. The case became a classic David v. Goliath struggle.
The good news this time around, at least for the moment, David finally won one...