Media heavies push for ownership freedom

Fox, NBC, Viacom log petitions with Court of Appeals

WASHINGTON — Big media congloms Thursday filed additional papers with a federal appeals court insisting the robes must once and for all do away with ownership caps preventing them from doing business.

Fox Television Stations, NBC and Viacom/CBS logged their petitions jointly with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in an ongoing legal skirmish with the FCC. The agency has argued that its actions, like upholding the broadcast ownership cap, are not subject to judicial review.

The companies disagree and have harsh words for the FCC’s decision last May not to replace or modify that reg, which limits any one of them from owning broadcast outlets that reach more than 35% of U.S. television households. That puts Viacom and Fox parent News Corp. in particular difficulty just now since recent acquisitions mean they could be forced to sell off some stations to comply with the cap unless it’s overturned in time.

Reg caps free speech?

They said the FCC “acted arbitrarily and capriciously and otherwise contrary to law” and the public interest by keeping the reg on the books. They also maintain that the cap violates the First Amendment.

“The blunderbuss mechanism of the national ownership cap not only restricts far more speech than necessary to achieve the government’s legitimate interest in promoting competition and diversity, but in fact it perversely undermines that interest,” the petition said.

Time Warner Entertainment, also a plaintiff in the case, is seeking to overturn the cable cross-ownership rule, which prohibits one entity from ownership of a TV station and a cable system in the same market.

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