Supremes Decline Review of Media Ownership Rules

This morning the Supreme Court decided not to hear the media conglomerates’ challenge to the Third Circuit Court’s decision to strike down the FCC’s loosened media ownership rules. The Court ruled without comment, but I can’t help think the fact that the FCC and Justice Dept. decided not to pursue the challenge was a contributing factor.

Now the ball is back in the FCC’s court to try and hash out revised ownership rules, by order of the Congress and the Third Circuit.

This could make for an interesting fight at the Commission, since right now it has only four commissioners, evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, giving the Dems much more power to demand public hearings and other concessions from consolidation-happy Chair Kevin Martin.

I wonder if this will light a fire under the Bush Administration to pick a new commissioner to fill the vacant spot. Of course, that new commissioner requires confirmation by the Senate, which also gives some power to the Dems, who have the opportunity to delay the confirmation of a commissioner that seems too bent on loosening ownership rules.

And yet, the furor over the 2003 loosening of the ownership rules was bipartisan — not just Democrats were pissed off. It’s tough to tell if Senate Republicans will be willing to make a stand on the issue when it comes time to confirm a new commissioner. But there is a chance.

Still, filling the empty FCC seat may be lower on the priority list than pushing through their judicial nominees. It could be a while before a new commissioner gets to the top of the list.