FCC Media Rules on Ownership Left Undisturbed by the Supreme Court

FCC or the Federal Communications Commission was created by The Communications Act of 1934 (accessible at: http://www.criminalgovernment.com/docs/61StatL101/ComAct34.html). The purpose of this commission was to regulate the industries pertaining to telephone, telegraph and radio communications. With arrival of new technologies in the field of communication, the scope of FCC has been widened so as to encompass broadcast, cable and satellite televisions.

As per the Communications Act, the federal policy dictates that the right to broadcast on radio or television channels will be granted under licenses by Federal Authority viz. FCC. Like any other licensing policy, this license is also to be renewed after a set period of time. Also, it is mandatory to seek prior approval from FCC for assignment or transfer of such license.


FCC has been given the power to formulate policies keeping in mind the interest of public. In 2007, FCC voted in favor of changing the media ownership rules with a view to relax certain bans which have existed for over a period of thirty years. The FCC rules on media ownership have been challenged on more than one count (a summary of the rules can be accessed at: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/reviewrules.pdf).


In a recent judgment of Supreme Court in the case of Media General, Inc. v. Federal communications commission (the judgment can be accessed at: http://www.justice.gov/osg/briefs/2011/0responses/2011-0691.resp.pdf). In this case the main issue before the court was whether the Federal Communications Commission’s broadcast ownership rules violate the first and fifth amendments to the Constitution..


The Justice Department argued that the media ownership rules should be upheld as it is the duty of FCC to make rules in public interest and the main motive for such rules is that "the public has access to a multiplicity of information sources." This step ensures availability of multiple sources of information to public which in turn is a pre-requisite for a democracy. Unaltered information may prove as a weapon for or against the government. Also, the rules aim to avoid concentration of ownership in fewer hands which would eventually lead to unsolicited influence on the broadcasts.


The Supreme Court ruled that the FCC rules were to be left untouched as the arguments advanced were more sound than the opposing party. The appeal against the media ownership rules was denied by the Supreme Court.


Ms. Katey Mathews, a political science student, said “this is just a way to restrain speech of some while encouraging the others”. On the other hand, Ms. Stella Wilson who is a kindergarten teacher said “I think it is an important decision so as to ensure news from different perspectives\sources.” In short, the conversations with locals prove that the debate on desirability of media- ownership rules still goes on.