Court gives FCC more time to consider attack, editorial rules
WASHINGTON, D.C.–In early February 1997, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. rejected a petition by the Radio- Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) to compel the FCC to consider its proposal to annul the personal attack and political editorial rules without a lengthy comment and reply period.
The court rejected the request as untimely, but noted that the RTNDA could refile its petition if the FCC has not acted in another six months. The FCC had told the court it has been accepting comments concerning the rule changes and will act soon.
The court action is the latest round of a battle between the FCC and broadcast groups that has continued for 17 years. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) filed a petition in August 1980 requesting that the FCC abolish the requirement that broadcasters provide air time for political candidates to respond to personal attacks or to station editorials. Two years later, the Commission was granted additional time to consider the request by the Office of Management and Budget. In late August 1987, the RTNDA used the FCC’s repeal of the “Fairness Doctrine,” to which the personal attack and political editorial rules are ancillaries, to again ask the commission to act. That request and another in January 1990 were answered with notice that the commission needed more time to receive comments and replies.
In mid-September 1996, the RTNDA asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington to compel the FCC to make a decision on the rules. The court issued the order, and the Commission again solicited comments. In its February decision, the court rescinded that order, but told RTNDA that it could refile the petition in six months if the FCC has not acted. (In re RTNDA; Media Counsel: Kathleen Kirby, Washington, D.C.)