Some PBS and NPR stations may be in for an election year bonanza if today’s ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco stands. Justices overturned part of a statute that bars federally funded public broadcasters from accepting political and issue ads; they upheld the ban on commercials for goods and services from for-profit entities. The law was designed to keep public broadcasters from feeling financial pressures to reach a mass audience, which could result in less public service programming including educational shows for kids. But the court said that “neither logic nor evidence” show that stations would abandon their public service mission in order to score issue and political ads. Lawmakers’ decision to let stations accept ads from non-profits was “fatal” to the case that the FCC made to defend the law. “That is the kind of picking-and-choosing among different types of speech that Congress may not do” under the First Amendment without proof that it’s needed to serve a “substantial interest,” the court said. READ MORE »
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Pasadena would have turned pay TV upside down today if it had sided with consumers in a suit that took on virtually every major company in the business including NBCUniversal, Viacom, Disney, Fox, Time Warner, Comcast, and DirecTV. The plaintiffs alleged that the companies exploit subscribers by only selling programming in packages — forcing people to pay for services they don’t want in order to receive must-have channels including broadcast networks, USA, and ESPN. But the court rejected the argument, upholding a lower court decision, saying the key issue is whether pay TV companies thwart antitrust laws. Although the consumers argued that bundling reduces their choices, and increases prices, “these allegations show only that plaintiffs have been harmed as a result of the practices at issue, not that those practices are anticompetitive,” the justices said.
FCC has to go back to the drawing board if it wants to ease the way for a company to own a newspaper and TV station in the same community. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit shot down rules that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin pushed through in 2008 to relax the cross ownership restrictions. The court said that Martin didn’t give the public enough time to respond to his proposals. That means the FCC probably will revisit the cross ownership rules beginning late this summer when it begins the Congressionally mandated quadrennial review of media regulations that was supposed to have been done last year. The court decision doesn’t require any company to divest properties. But if the FCC doesn’t adopt the same rules that Martin favored, it could affect Tribune: It used the 2008 standards to justify newspaper-TV cross-ownership arrangements in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.
You may think that most Wall Street analyst reports are a waste of paper and pixels. But they’re newsworthy because they often move stock prices. That’s why business news organizations are breathing a sigh of relief today following a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruling that upholds their right to report on analysts’ recommendations — even before the analysts’ clients have a chance to read the updates. The court said that research analysts make news in much the same way the NBA does with a basketball game, or the American Theater Wing does with the Tony Awards. Just because Wall Street firms make the news, the court said, “does not give rise to a right for (them) to control who breaks that news and how.” The decision overturned a district court ruling that sided with Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch, Barclays, and Morgan Stanley in their effort to stop a financial news website, Theflyonthewall.com, from selling daily updates listing changes in financial firms’ recommendations. The firms said that the website was enjoying a free ride off of their work. They also said that their reports were protected under a New York law that grants copyright protection to providers of “hot news.” Last year the district court said that the website would have to wait until 10:00 AM ET to report on analyst recommendations made before 9:30 when the markets open, or two hours after the firms issued new recommendations. That order was not enforced during the appeal. The appeals court shot it down, citing federal copyright laws that it says supersede the New York law.