Thursday, December 06, 2007

More Tribune & FCC News

I have to dig more into this one but Broadcasting & Cable is reporting that Tribune filed suit against the FCC challenging the waiver it received last week, the pending cross-ownership rule proposed by Chairman Martin, as well as the existing rule against cross-ownership. It appears that the contingency in Tribune's two-year waiver, which allows the waiver to be extended indefinitely while the rule is being litigated, was designed specifically to give Tribune a means to control its own destiny. The contingency gave Tribune legal grounds for filing the lawsuit, which not only means that Tribune's lawsuit will extend its waiver, it also opened up an opportunity for Tribune to challenge cross-ownership rules as a whole. B&C, quoting Commissioner Michael Copps:

"If the majority simply granted a two-year waiver to Tribune -- which would have been the straightforward thing to do -- Tribune would have been unable to go to court because a party cannot file an appeal if their waiver request is granted," Copps pointed out in his dissenting statement. "So what does this order do? It denies the waiver request but offers an automatic (and unprecedented) waiver extension as soon as Tribune runs to the courthouse door. Presto! Tribune gets at least a two-year waiver plus the ability to go to court immediately and see if they can get the entire rule thrown out."

Copps also opined that Tribune would be able to appeal to the "more sympathetic" D.C. Circuit, bypassing the Third Circuit, which remanded the general ban back to the commission, although even that court indicated that the FCC could make a case for modifying or lifting the ban.
What a mess - It's going to take me some time to sort through everything and figure out what might come of all the various factors at work. You have the waiver just passed, a Congressional investigation into Martin and his stewardship at the FCC, a rule proposed by Martin that is supposed to be voted on very soon, a lawsuit against the FCC by the beneficiary of the waiver . . . and the relatively strong possibility that Congress will try to alter the rulemaking process in some fashion, perhaps not even waiting to review the results of its investigation of Martin.