Victory for Public Interest in Court Decision

By Carolyn M. Byerly, Professor, Department of Journalism, Howard University

July 11, 2011

On July 7, the 3rd Circuit Court reached its decision in the long-standing media ownership appeal brought by the Institute for Public Representation (IPR) at Georgetown University and other groups that joined in. The lead attorney for IPR is Angela Campbell, a feminist legal scholar who represents the National Organization for Women Foundation, United Church of Christ and other groups that have advocated for women and people of color in communication policy. Campbell has a team of law students and young attorneys working with her.

The court sided with IPR and groups that had joined in with it in bringing the case. The decision rejected the broadcast industry's arguments favoring radio and radio/TV cross-ownership rules and reinstated a 1975 ban on cross-ownership. The court also directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to consider the impact of minority and female ownership and to come up with concrete rules and definitions that will promote such ownership in broadcast. The court agreed with IPR's brief that the FCC failed to address proposals for increasing opportunities for minorities and women. It specifically found that that the "eligible entity" definition used by the commission was arbitrary and capricious because the FCC had not shown how it would function in increasing women and minority ownership.

The full opinion is available online (PDF) -- start reading on p. 45 for the major points in the court's decision.