updated 6/24/2004 3:43:12 PM ET 2004-06-24T19:43:12

A federal appeals court on Thursday largely reversed a controversial deregulation package that the Federal Communications Commission passed last year, handing a victory to public interest groups that had opposed the sweeping changes to media ownership rules.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which is based in Philadelphia, also left in place an order blocking the FCC from putting the rules into effect.

The ruling was a setback to the FCC's efforts to loosen rules governing media ownership. The deregulation package, which was announced in June 2003, triggered widespread debate in Washington and in the public over the concentration of media ownership by large corporations.

An array of group of public interest groups challenged the FCC's ruling, saying the rule changes would further limit the diversity of voices on the airwaves and other forms of media.

In their 2-to-1 decision, the judges threw out FCC rules that would have allowed greater ownership of television and radio stations in the same market. However, the judges did say the FCC was within its rights to repeal a blanket prohibition on companies owning both a newspaper and a television station in the same city.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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