On April 1, the Supreme Court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can move forward with plans to ease onerous media ownership rules. The FCC is mandated under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to review media ownership rules regularly and modify regulations that no longer serve the public interest. Under former Chairman Ajit Pai’s leadership, the FCC moved to deregulate cross-media ownership rules, and today’s ruling is an important step to modernizing antiquated regulations.
NTU wrote in support of this update to cross-media ownership rules when arguments were being heard: “When the cross-media ownership regulations were established, Amercians were reliant on a few television and radio stations for news and there were concerns with large corporations owning too much of the media. Now, consumers have access to a plethora of online news sources, and the outdated regulations regarding cross-media ownership serve to stifle investment opportunities in local markets.”
Former Chairman Pai deserves credit for spearheading this effort. Updated cross-media ownership rules will allow local journalism to receive much-needed financial investment and create more job opportunities. With greater access to the internet, the media market has grown more competitive with more news sources for consumers. Justice Kavanaugh sums up this point well saying, "the historical justifications for those ownership rules no longer apply in today’s media market, and that permitting efficient combinations among radio stations, television stations, and newspapers would benefit consumers."
This ruling is especially important given that local media shops were in a dire situation. NTU wrote, “the Pew Research Center reports a 23-percent drop in newsroom jobs from 2008 to 2019, with most cuts coming from newspapers. What these closures and cuts mean for taxpayers, besides the notable loss in job opportunities, are fewer people reporting on local policy and government and less national visibility into what is happening at the state and local level.” However, a significant number of Americans have turned to and trust their local news during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This update to outdated regulations is an important step in ensuring local media can thrive and consumers retain access to news reporting on local and national issues. As Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel leads the FCC, we hope she will continue to look to unburden and modernize existing rules that no longer serve their intended purpose. Today’s ruling is welcome news for local journalism and taxpayers.