SCOTUS Opinion: Court Re-Institutes Federal Communications Commission’s Repeal Of Media Ownership Rules

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires the FCC to review its rules restricting entities from owning multiple media outlets every four years to ensure that competition, localism, and viewpoint diversity were promoted. In 2017, the FCC determined that three of its rules were no longer necessary to promote those values, and that repealing the rules would likely not harm minority and female ownership. In FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project, a nonprofit filed suit alleging that the proposed repeal was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act because it argued the record evidence did not support the FCC’s prediction on the effect on minority and female ownership. The Third Circuit vacated the FCC’s decision.

The Court, in a unanimous decision by Justice Kavanaugh, reversed, holding that the FCC’s repeal was reasonable and reasonably explained as required under the APA. The Court rejected the argument that the FCC relied on flawed or inferior data, holding that the FCC relied on the available data, and merely interpreted it differently than the challengers did. There was no need for the FCC to require perfect data. Justice Thomas filed a concurrence arguing that the FCC did not need to consider minority and female ownership since it was not required under the Act.

A link to the opinion is here: