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Court Blocks FCC Media Ownership Rules 85

Posted by Hemos
from the good-move-or-bad? dept.
Dr. Mu writes "According to this story in today's Seattle Times, 'The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia blocked implementation of FCC regulations that would have allowed companies to own more radio and television stations in the same market, and directed the agency to rewrite the rules.' In the interim, the FCC has already granted waivers to the old (1975) rules. It's unclear whether these waivers will now be revoked. Nonetheless, this ruling spells relief for smaller media interests and the diversity they provide."
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Court Blocks FCC Media Ownership Rules

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  • I don't know whether I should be happy that judges seem to be tapping the brakes on the kleptocracy, or sad that the judiciary is interfering with regulatory bodies appointed by (nominally) elected officials.
    • by rking (32070) on Saturday June 26, 2004 @10:53AM (#9537022)
      I don't know whether I should be happy that judges seem to be tapping the brakes on the kleptocracy, or sad that the judiciary is interfering with regulatory bodies appointed by (nominally) elected officials.

      The judges are also appointed by (nominally) elected officials and their job is to interpret the laws. In this case they found that the FCC had not fully complied with the laws created by the (nominally) elected officials and as such that their actions were invalid. The (nominally) elected officials can go and change the laws if they so desire, or the FCC can try again. The judges seem to be doing their job.
      • The difference is that Federal judges are not directly elected by the people and are thus not directly accountable. Often, they have long or even lifetime appointments and cannot be fired.
        • by DarkFencer (260473) on Saturday June 26, 2004 @11:16AM (#9537140)
          That is the WHOLE point. They are not beholden to the political powers, they do not have to campaign, fundraise, watch polls, etc.

          They do (almost universally) what they believe is right, not what will make them popular. You may not agree with a federal/supreme judge's interpretations of course, but that is our right.
          • by Anonymous Coward
            They sure do seem to show a lot of loyalty to the parties who appointed them, though--look at the 5-4 ruling against the Fourth amendment the other day.
          • They are not beholden to the political powers, they do not have to campaign, fundraise, watch polls, etc.

            Which is why it is easier to call any money given to a judge, a bribe. That same money to a politician is euphemistically known as a "campaign contribution."

            Not to say that judges have not been bribed, but once caught, they can't hide behind labels.

    • What would make us all really happy is if we, as ordinary citizens, would have available the same legal manoeuvering as corporations.

      "Officer, I request a temporary waiver from Vehicle Code 22348 because I'm running late for work and my boss is going to kill me." Or, if that doesn't fly, "Your honour, I request an exemption from the implementation of this fine."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 26, 2004 @10:40AM (#9536940)
    ...of the big media conglomerates?

    Isn't that one of the signs of the apocalypse?
  • Wow... (Score:5, Funny)

    by XeRXeS-TCN (788834) on Saturday June 26, 2004 @10:40AM (#9536942)
    A decision made to *prevent* monopolies? What's the world coming to! We'll be disbanding Microsoft before you know it!
    • Who hasn't already?!? I mean really....
    • Re:Wow... (Score:2, Interesting)

      In all seriousness, check out this quote from the article

      "The decision was a victory for public-interest groups and consumers who flooded the FCC with more than 2 million letters, e-mails and faxes criticizing the regulations."

      I find it more interesting that we had a say in that decision. I wonder how many of those were /.er's?
  • Finally.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Maxite (782150)
    The FCC is finally getting told what it's limits are.
    • by Detritus (11846)
      The problem is that every time the FCC issues new rules that affect large corporate interests, whether they're good or bad rules, the corporations immediately go to the federal courts in an attempt to stall or overturn the rules that they don't like. This can take years, even if the FCC prevails.

      How would you like to live in a world where everyone had a staff of lawyers on retainer, and insisted on litigating every little problem in their life?

    • something that the fcc refuses to do for broadcasters, no less.
  • appeal? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by maxbang (598632) on Saturday June 26, 2004 @10:42AM (#9536959) Journal

    This is great an all, but is it possible for a higher court to reverse this ruling? I'm assuming the current broadcast oligopoly will not take this sitting down.

    • by akb (39826)
      The next court of appeal is the Supreme Court.
    • but unlikely, should Chariman Powell decide to pursue it. This would involve all 12 judges at the 3rd circuit (there are 14 seats but two are vacant) reviewing the case, on the grounds that the standard appellate review was somehow flawed and/or unconstitutional.

      Failing that, there is, of course, The United States Supreme Court.

      Basically, according to London's Financial Times: the "...appeals court banned the FCC from implementing the controversial rules until the agency redrafted them or provided better
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...the FCC will be bought out by the SEC which was recently acquired by the FBI.
    • ...the FCC will be bought out by the SEC which was recently acquired by the FBI.

      ...which means that the FCC is controlled by the SEC, which is controlled by the FBI (along with the Boy Sprouts and the Nephews of God), which is controlled by <fnord />.

      If they take control of Big Media next, and then play Bailout... Nooooo, damnit!! They're going to Immenantize the Eschaton before me!!

      Quick, who's got transferrable power to help out with an Attack to Neutralize?

  • by f1ipf10p (676890) on Saturday June 26, 2004 @10:44AM (#9536970)
    As good as this news is, I still do not expect my local access guy to be able to compete with the likes of Rupert Murdoch or Ted Turner. Free press is getting tougher and tougher. At least there is the internet...
  • It's about time (Score:3, Informative)

    by bool morpheus() (689231) <morpheus2600@@@xmsg...com> on Saturday June 26, 2004 @10:46AM (#9536982) Journal
    I'm glad to see it. I'm not sure about anywhere else, but it seems like Clearchannel owns my entire city... I'd like to see some indie TV stations or something start up and not be squashed.
    • Re:It's about time (Score:5, Interesting)

      by maxbang (598632) on Saturday June 26, 2004 @10:54AM (#9537031) Journal

      Heh - I grew up in a small town in Wyoming. After moving to Minneapolis, I was very exicted about the radio. That feeling lasted for precisely one week. Every morning personality is a clone of each other (think Simpson's KBBL morning schwag), the music loops worse than a bad house mix, and the stations shuffle formats faster than a newbie fdisker. Thanks to my Neuros I have long last relief and a little radio in my pocket. I think clearchannel and disney own something like 90% of Twin Cities radio. The only thing worth listening to is KFAI, listener supported radio.

    • This ruling will hurt us in the long run.
      Industry consolidation is good for the overall economy as it improves the economies of scale and productivity. Having a fragmented market will reduce the number of available choices in rural areas and further isolate these areas.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 26, 2004 @10:47AM (#9536985)
    Mod me as a troll if you want to, but this is needed!

    With the the big radio corporations eating up radio stations left and right, the only thing we have left is 10 minute stop sets (commercial breaks) and "playlists" of songs that are cookie cutter.

    If there were only a way to get things back to where they were back in the early-mid 90's where it was MUSIC played on a radio station, not voice tracked half assed talent, piped in morning shows from across the country, and corporate demanded commercials.

    I mean, not everywhere has a AutoZone, Valero Diamond Shamrock, etc....

    I know it'll be impossible to go back to MY glory dys of radio, but at least we can make sure that what has happend to create this beast, can be restrained.

    WAY TO GO PHILLY!!!

    Now, if other states could only learn a leason from this.... /disgruntled jock
    • by RobotRunAmok (595286) * on Saturday June 26, 2004 @11:14AM (#9537126)

      I know it'll be impossible to go back to MY glory dys of radio


      Glory Days? You want Glory Days?

      Mid-Seventies, NY Metro Area. Top 40 on AM with people like Dan Ingram and Cousin Brucie. Totally free-form jock-plays-whatever-suits-him with people like Scott Muni, Vin Scelsa, and Alison Steele. WPIX!!! ("From Elvis to Elvis") WQIV broadcasting in quadrophonic! Jazz up the yin-yang, from non-commercial through commercial stations, from Basie through Miles and up through Euro-Synth and Su Ra. All-Disco stations. All-Punk overnights. Live remotes nightly (or so it seemed) from CBGB's, the Bottom Line, Max's, uptown dinner-clubs and Irish pubs.

      It was amazing. Intoxicating. And we didn't know it could ever be any other way.

      Of course, in those medieval times, we actually bought records, with real money, in a record store. Music on the radio was diverse and good, and it was free, and if we wanted to own some of it we paid for it. Now, music on the radio is all the same crap, and the RIAA complains that nobody is paying for what they own.

      There's a chicken-and-egg scenario here someplace, but I leave that to clearer heads to dope out...
      • by Anonymous Coward
        RIP Alison Steele ...
        • While you're at it, RIP Joe Niagra, a veritable icon for Philly radio [philaradio.com].

          And RIP DECENT radio, killed by the concepts of "format-of-the-minute", satellite (who needs local talent?) feeds, 20 cut cookie-cutter music lists, 30 minute (advertising) hours, talk radio, and Clear Channel.

      • > Glory Days? You want Glory Days?

        Here's a related story [kuro5hin.org] on Kuro5hin. I think these Glory Days may just be selective memory. Nobody wants to remember the bad stuff.

        I grew up in the St. Louis area and remember listening to that station, KSHE [kshe95.com], in the late 80s. To me, they were Jurassic rock dinosaurs who were oblivious to the exciting new music forms of the time: hip-hop, hardcore punk, and thrash. (KSHE *did* have a metal show but you had to suffer through the Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin ad naseum.)

  • I hope it sticks. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BCW2 (168187) on Saturday June 26, 2004 @10:50AM (#9537003) Journal
    It seems that any industry that is allowed to "consolidate" from many to a few owners or companies has the same results: Higher Prices, Worse Service. Doesn't matter what group you are talking about the same thing happens.
    • Yeah...I am outraged at the way my radio bill keeps rising. If this keeps up, I'm definitely going to switch to something fixed price, like my pirated MP3 collection.
      • by Entropius (188861)
        Your radio bill *is* rising, although not directly.

        They're playing more ads and worse music, thus the amount of time you have to expend and the number of inane ads you have to listen to in order to get the same entertainment value value has gone up.

        It's all a matter of marginal costs. And, you're right--eventually when those costs (crappy radio) outweigh the value gained from radio, people will start listening to their own recordings in their cars. (Many already have, obviously.)
        • I've actually had a friend express a small amount of envy at my large library of car CD mixes. The Boston market at least has a few small-conglom (FNX, the WGBH radio stations) and indy (WXRV) stations left that provide some diversity... one of the few areas where Clear Channel owns only a small swath of the dial, but Infinity is very powerful actually.
          • Re:I hope it sticks. (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Entropius (188861)
            After my second discman in a year broke (I only have a tape deck, so I have to use external cd players with an adapter in the car), I started using my laptop as a car music player. Lots of storage, no need to burn CD's.

            And, while I've got it in the car, I may as well run netstumbler...
      • Did you read the part about "worse service"? Clear channel stations have little local news, double the ads, and the worst playlists, af any radio group or privately owned stations.
  • UHF! (Score:5, Funny)

    by niktesla (761443) on Saturday June 26, 2004 @10:50AM (#9537007) Homepage
    These rules played an intricate part of the plot for UHF, in which a UHF station was being bought out by a network station who were gonna use this rule as an excuse to close the popular UHF station, where you could you see such shows as Conan The Librarian, Ghandi II, Strip Solitare, and the best of all Stanley Spadowski's Playhouse!

    But seriously, these small stations have a lot of unique programming that should not be lost.


    • "Stanley Spadowski's Playhouse!"

      I loved that movie! Even saw it in the theatre when it came out. I'm not sure if that's cool or... sad. Being a fan of Kramer before there was a Kramer. :-)

      "You're a lucky, lucky boy 'cuz you know why? You get to drink from... the FIREHOSE!"

      Funny though, at the time (20 years ago?) I remember thinking how radio consolidation was getting out of control. If only I knew how good we had it then.

  • by MooseByte (751829) on Saturday June 26, 2004 @10:52AM (#9537016)

    While still good, it's worth noting that this is not a complete rejection of the FCC's new rulemaking. Specifically it still gives them plenty of leeway in radio consolidation and cross-ownership of radio and TV stations in the same market, provided the FCC "can provide better justification" for doing so.

    But still, many a good reason to be doing the Happy Dance today! Hooray! Nice to see the courts still have some sanity in them.
  • Name the Losers (Score:2, Informative)

    by earthstar (748263)
    The media ownership rules, adopted in a 3-2 vote along party lines in June of last year, lifted a 1975 ban on owning both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same town. The new rules allow a company to own two TV stations in more than 90 percent of local markets and up to three stations in the biggest markets such as Los Angeles and New York.

    So can u name some of the companies that will be a big loser because of this ruling?
  • by thing2b (683741)
    Yay, no monolopies (bad spelling)
  • Roll out LPFM! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by John Leeming (160817) on Saturday June 26, 2004 @11:08AM (#9537097)
    The one point that may be lost to the casual reader is that the conglomerates were the biggest stumbling block to the allocation of Low Power FM (LPFM) radio stations going on the air.

    With marginal engineering claims that "channel adjacency" would cause "undue interference" (read: get people to listen to something else in a virtually closed market owned by Clear Channel, for example), LPFM has been sidetracked and slowed from expanding to fill local community needs.

    As well, this could also assist in 'breaking the back' of Clear Channel in its efforts to become the entertainment monopoly, controlling not only who it is that plays concerts at local venues, but the 'reverse payola' of not giving airplay to artists that aren't a part of the Clear Channel "stable of stars".

    Now, if only the National Lawyers Guild would finish their legal challenge to the Communications Act of 1934...

    • Re:Roll out LPFM! (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You _do_ understand that the Low Power Radio Act of 2004 (which would deploy LPFM on a mass scale) is RIGHT NOW before the Senate and that a campaign is underway to rally support for this act [freepress.net].
    • They're even moving in to Canada. Lately buying the New Yorker Theatre [thestar.com] in Toronto. (Maybe they got confused by the name?) A branch of the Blue Man Group will be moving in, right across from Scientology's Martian Embassy. (Sometimes that's funny. [primus.ca])
      • They're even moving in to Canada. Lately buying the New Yorker Theatre in Toronto.

        And clearchannel is buying up advertisement space (as in the actual billboards) here in Belgium. I wonder what their plan is with that.
    • LPFM is the main issue that the lead plantiff in this case, The Prometheus Radio Project [prometheusradio.org], works on. There's a bill in the Senate now to expand LPFM.
    • Re:Roll out LPFM! (Score:3, Informative)

      by connorbd (151811)
      FM broadcasting is more complicated than you'd think, though -- an improperly transmitted FM signal can have theoretically infinite sidebands, where an AM signal would have only two (one of which can be eliminated). It's been proven otherwise, but I think Big Media thought it had an actual point crying interference.

      In any case, community radio is already here -- part 15 AM can cover a sizeable chunk of a town (at least here in the northeast) and multiple synchronized transmitters can create a large coverag
  • Waivers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by firstadopter.com (745257) on Saturday June 26, 2004 @11:17AM (#9537144) Homepage
    Aren't rules meant to be followed until new rules come, instead of one agency just waiving them?
  • Nothing... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by ifwm (687373)
    This ruling means nothing. It will of course end up in the Supreme Court, where the real decision will be made.
  • who said it best with The FCC Song [pythonline.com]
  • When Powell was pushing this agenda in the first place, the best he could come up with as justification for why it was a good thing was `As [people] watch TV in the next coming days, months, and weeks, they're not going to see something radically different than they have seen for decades.' Not a word about why it's a good thing, only about why it's not such a bad thing.

    When the decision was overturned, though, the gloves came off: An NPR story yestermorn quoted him saying `This is deeply troubling', and

  • So the 3rd Circuit bitch-slaps the FCC -- gee, wow, how cool and groovy is that. Let me know when your local rock station jettisons the ol' ZZ Top and Skynyrd tunes for, say, the Replacements and the Pixies.

    Truth is that niether this court action, nor the FFC rules it blocks, will have much effect on radio (which seems to be the focus of these /. comments). Clear Channel already owns 1200 stations; the next three biggest (Cumulus, Infinity, Citadel) own about half that many, combined.

    This ruling will ac
  • by Wohali (57372)
    What provisions are there for low-power FM stations in Canada? I looked at the CRTC [crtc.gc.ca], but they're unlikely to tell me what the likelihood of actually obtaining a license would be.
  • by PingXao (153057) on Saturday June 26, 2004 @03:30PM (#9538597)
    If they really wanted to get serious they go as far as actually taking the airwaves away from the big corporations and giving them back to the people. We want something in return for the use of those airwaves and it ain't a one-time bargain sale.

    We used to get Real News. Now we get attractive people spewing corporate and government propaganda ant us all day. Why doesn't the FCC do anything about that? (thanks to Juan Cole for some of this stuff)
  • Colin Powell Jr. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by JerLasVegas (791093)
    It's about time some judge stops this freak. The FCC doesn't even follow their own regulations consistently. Especially with the unjust fining of Howard Stern. Other people do the same things he does and don't get fined. Ever since Howard Stern has been talking about about Bush and degrading him, he has had more and more problems. And of course Michael Powell (Colin Powell Jr.) has had it out for him. And of course Clear Channel Executive Michael Long ( very good friends with G.W. Bush) pulled Howard

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