WASHINGTON A federal appeals court has denied a request from Tribune Co., publisher of the Chicago Tribune, to allow mergers between newspapers and broadcast stations in markets with at least nine television stations.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Sept. 3 also approved tighter limits on radio station ownership in a single market, according to an order signed by Circuit Judge Thomas L. Ambro.
The decisions came as a result of narrowly tailored appeals of the court's decision in June overturning the Federal Communications Commission effort in 2003 to deregulate media ownership. The court in that decision found the agency didn't adequately justify its decision to loosen many local and national ownership limits.
The court is "sticking to its guns," said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president and chief executive of the Media Access Project.
Chicago-based Tribune Co., which also publishes the Hartford Courant and the Los Angeles Times, had argued that no ownership limits were needed in the largest markets because a variety of news was already available.
It argued that a 1975 blanket ban on newspaper-television cross-ownership in all markets except those with four television stations or fewer violated its rights of expression.
The FCC lifted that ban for the largest markets in 2003 but was overruled by the court.
An attorney for Tribune was not immediately available to comment. The case is Prometheus v. FCC.
In the radio decision, the federal appeals court approved one element of the FCC's 2003 deregulation. That rule tightened radio ownership rules by redefining local markets and including noncommercial stations in the mix.
But the court on Sept. 3 continued to block the rest of the FCC radio rules.