Since his appointment as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai has pursued a deregulatory agenda to promote free enterprise, competition, and consumer choice. While Chairman Pai’s wise decision to end net neutrality may have generated the most interest from the media and public, there have been many other reforms that will benefit consumers, like capping in-kind contributions and adjusting media ownership rules.
However, a recent decision by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals threatens to undo an important FCC rule that helps newspapers and other media outlets merge in order to remain viable in today’s ultra-competitive media environment.
The Court tossed out a new regulation, amending a 1976 rule that bars broadcast media outlets from also owning newspapers, and vice-versa, in the same market. Since the implementation of this rule 25 percent of all American newspapers have closed down, with many outlets barely staying afloat amid decreased revenue and diminishing readership. With both local print and broadcast media struggling to hit revenue targets, many have been forced to lay-off journalists and support personnel. As a result, there are now fewer reporters covering the beat at city halls and state capitals, providing much needed governing transparency and taxpayer accountability to local and state lawmakers.
Thankfully, the FCC brought much-needed relief to small media outlets with the amendment to undo that antiquated rule that has strangled small media outlets from remaining competitive in the 21st century. Permitting organizations to combine resources in this way allows them to expand their coverage, increase investment in their operations, and streamline their businesses in ways that benefit consumers and taxpayers. Modernizing the long outdated media ownership rules creates an environment where local news organizations are better positioned to not only stay in business, but also compete and thrive in a rapidly evolving and expanding media ecosystem.
Thankfully, the FCC has filed an appeal to the court’s decision. It is our hope that reason prevails and the commonsense rule is permitted to go into effect.