Today’s post will be a bit more into the legal weeds than many of our articles, addressing the standards used by courts to review the decisions of administrative agencies like the FCC. Last month, there was a Supreme Court argument in a case called Relentless, Inc. v. Department of Commerce that the popular press suggested was going to end the regulation of media companies. Even the media trade press seemed to think that the decision could cut back on regulations that come from the FCC and other agencies. As with much popular coverage of legal issues, the real-world impact of the case, while certainly significant in legal practice, is probably overstated.
The Relentless case challenges a judicial precedent in place since a 1984 decision in another case, Chevron [U.S.A.] Inc. v. NRDC, Inc. The policy adopted in that case, referred to as the “Chevron Doctrine,” says that the courts will defer to the decision of an administrative agency interpreting an ambiguous Congressional statute unless the agency’s decision is arbitrary and capricious or contrary to law. What that basically means is that, if a policy adopted by Congress is capable of many different interpretations, the Courts will defer to the interpretation of the expert agency that is supposed to enforce that statute, unless the interpretation cannot be squared with the language of the statute or the record before the agency. We’ve written many times on this blog about this doctrine without necessarily identifying it by name, usually in connection with appeals of a Copyright Royalty Board or FCC decision and how difficult it is to convince a court to overturn these actions.Continue Reading What Does the Supreme Court’s Review of the Chevron Doctrine Mean for Media Companies Challenging Decisions of the FCC and Other Government Agencies?