Prometheus vs the FCC

In 2003 the FCC, under Chairman Michael Powell, sought to dismantle the remaining protections against media consolidation. Many large companies wanted media ownership rules abolished, allowing them to buy up unlimited media properties and monopolize local markets. Prometheus organized against these changes and commented to the FCC. Then, when the FCC ignored the millions of anti-consolidation comments, we sued the FCC in federal court.

Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC was a landmark case in US media policy. Along with Prometheus, a number of broadcasters and citizens groups, including the Consumer Federation of America, the United Churches of Christ, and Media Alliance, also sued to prevent the FCC from allowing the largest wave of media consolidation in history. Prometheus was represented by Andrew Jay Schwartzman and Cheryl Leanza of the Media Access Project, and Angela Campbell of the Institute for Public Representation.

In 2004, the majority of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in favor of Prometheus. The court mandated that the FCC retain the old media rules until they could provide a rational explanation for the changes.The court ruled that the "diversity index," a complicated measure proposed by the FCC to weigh cross-ownership of radio, television, and newspapers, was irrational and inconsistent. FCC Chairman Michael Powell resigned soon after, and was replaced by Kevin Martin.

In 2007, Chairman Martin proposed a scaled back version of the consolidation proposal. This version still contained large loopholes that could allow for much larger media monopolies. Fortunately, the Third Circuit Court placed a stay on the FCC, meaning that the rules could not be enforced. In March 2010, during the FCC’s 2010 quadrennial review, the court removed the stay. Until the FCC acts to reverse them or the court settles the original challenge to the 2003 rules, the 2007 rules are in effect.