By LE Desk

Washington, April 1: The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the Federal Communication Commission to loosen local media ownership restrictions, handing a victory to broadcasters in a ruling that could facilitate industry consolidation as consumers increasingly move online.

In a 9-0 ruling authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the justices overturned a lower court decision that had blocked the FCC’s repeal of some media ownership regulations in 2017 for failing to consider the effects on ownership by racial minorities and women, Reuters reported. Critics of the industry have said further consolidation could limit media choices for consumers.

The justices acted in appeals by the FCC, companies including News Corp, Fox Corp and Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc and the National Association of Broadcasters.

The associations for other broadcast networks’ local affiliates, including ABC, NBC and CBS, backed the appeals, arguing that consolidation would help ensure the economic survival of local television amid heavy competition from internet companies that provide video content. Broadcast television stations have said they are increasingly losing advertising dollars to digital platforms.

In 2017, the FCC – then led by Republicans during former President Donald Trump’s administration – voted to eliminate a ban in place since 1975 on cross-ownership of a newspaper and TV station in a major market. It also voted to make it easier for media companies to buy additional TV stations in the same market, and for companies to buy additional radio stations in some markets.

The FCC, now equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, is led by acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, who voted against the 2017 decision. The agency is set to have a Democratic majority once President Joe Biden nominates and the Senate confirms a new commissioner. The FCC could then seek to reverse the 2017 order.

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