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Tech

Supreme Court Won't Hear Challenge To Media Rules

June 29, 2012

Federal Communications Commission rules that put limits on the cross-ownership of broadcast stations and newspapers in a single market will stand for the time being, Reuters reports. The Supreme Court denied a bid to hear appeals by Media General in a case dating back to 2008 that challenged the FCC's authority to modify its rules.

Since 2008, the FCC has required waivers for broadcasters operating in a top 20 market to acquire a newspaper in that market. Broadcast companies, including Media General, Tribune Company and others challenged the rule on First Amendment grounds.

"We're disappointed the Supreme Court declined to review rules that limit local broadcasters' ability to compete with our national and multinational pay programming competitors. NAB will continue to advocate for modernizing ownership rules that stem from an era of 'I Love Lucy'," said Dennis Wharton, spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters.

The FCC didn't have a perfect day at the Court, however. Justices declined to hear an appeal by the FCC to reinstate a $550,00 fine against CBS Corp. stemming from the infamous "wardrobe malfunction" in the 2004 Super Bowl broadcast, in which the bare breast of singer Janet Jackson was aired on live TV.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing a concurrence in the order denying the appeal, disagreed with the opinion of the appeals court that ruled the FCC's fine of CBS, "constituted an unexplained departure from the FCC's prior indecency policy," but said the issue was rendered moot because the FCC no longer exempts so-called "fleeting" images and expletives from its indecency policy.

"It is now clear that the brevity of an indecent broadcast -- be it word or image -- cannot immunize it from FCC censure," Roberts wrote.

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