In a very short decision issued on Wednesday, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the FCC’s request for rehearing of the September decision of a panel of three of its judges which overturned the FCC’s 2017 decision changing many of the broadcast ownership rules (including the abolition of the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules). We wrote about the FCC’s request for a rehearing “en banc” by the full Third Circuit here, and about the three-judge panel’s decision overturning the FCC decision here. Wednesday’s decision said little of substance, only stating that a majority of the Court had not voted for the rehearing request, and thus it was denied. What is next for the FCC?
At this point, with the 2017 rules vacated by the Third Circuit, the FCC has two options. It can appeal to the Supreme Court, though that Court accepts for consideration only a few cases each year. The other option is that the FCC can try to adopt new rules by meeting the panel’s seemingly impossible mandate to find definitive historical data about minority ownership of broadcast stations that can be applied to determine the effect of any broadcast ownership changes on diversity of ownership. Watch in the coming weeks to see which of these options the FCC decides to pursue.