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Pallone and Doyle Seek Answers from FCC on Agency’s Order Ignoring Court’s Media Ownership Decision

Oct 22, 2019
Press Release
FCC Allowed Acquisition Violating “Top Four” Rule One Day After Court Rejected Commission’s Flawed Attempt to Change Media Ownership Rules

Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) sent a letter today to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai raising concerns about whether the FCC Media Bureau’s decision to allow television consolidation in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota market violated the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit’s recent decision striking down the FCC’s roll back of media ownership protections. 

On September 23, 2019, the Third Circuit struck down the FCC’s attempt to deregulate the broadcast market by eliminating protections that would prohibit greater consolidation under the “Top Four” rule, which prohibits one entity from owning two of the top four stations in a given market.  The Court made clear the FCC had not adequately considered the effects that the elimination of those necessary protections would have on ownership diversity. 

Despite the clear rebuke, the FCC’s Media Bureau disregarded the Court’s decision the very next day by signing off on a proposal that allowed the owner of the second-rated KSFY-TV in the Sioux Falls market to acquire KDLT-TV, the third-rated station in that same market. 

“In allowing this transaction to go forward, the FCC undermines the rule of law and the decision of the Third Circuit,” Pallone and Doyle wrote.  “The FCC’s technical arguments about why it doesn’t have to comply with the Court’s decision seem highly suspect, at best, and an intentional flouting of the rule of law at worst.” 

In light of the FCC ignoring the Court’s decision and this Committee’s commitment to ensuring a diverse marketplace, Pallone and Doyle are seeking answers to the following questions and requests from Pai by November 12, 2019:

  • Will the FCC reconsider the acquisition of KDLT-TV once the Court’s mandate has been issued?
  • Did the FCC seek the opinion of the Court, or the Office of General Counsel, regarding the legality of relying on the FCC rules that have been struck down by the Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC Decision?  If so, please provide all written communications to that effect in the FCC’s possession.
  • Is the FCC currently reviewing transactions that are seeking waivers of the broadcast ownership rules?  If so, please provide the Committee the details of those transactions.
  • Is the FCC currently reviewing transactions that would require a waiver to comply with the broadcast ownership rules in place either prior to or after the Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC Decision?  If so, please provide the Committee the details of those transactions. 

To read the letter, click HERE.