IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Supreme Court lets FCC ease media ownership rules, sides with Facebook in robocall case

"The historical justifications for those ownership rules no longer apply in today’s media market," Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the FCC case.
Get more newsLiveonNBC News Now

The Supreme Court said Thursday that the Federal Communications Commission could begin to relax the rules restricting single-company ownership of multiple media outlets in a community, clearing the way for more industry consolidation.

In a separate ruling, the court said Facebook did not violate the federal law governing robocalls when it sent text messages to a man who said he never had an account with the social media company.

Both decisions were unanimous.

In a victory for the nation's broadcasters, the justices overturned a lower court ruling that blocked the FCC from carrying out a Trump administration effort to repeal some media cross-ownership rules. The industry argued that consolidation would help it remain competitive as audiences increasingly move to online sources.

The court's opinion, written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, said the limits on cross ownership were adopted at a time when media sources were more limited.

"The FCC considered the record evidence on competition, localism, viewpoint diversity, and minority and female ownership, and reasonably concluded that the three ownership rules no longer serve the public interest," he wrote.

Kavanaugh said the FCC found that "the historical justifications for those ownership rules no longer apply in today’s media market, and that permitting efficient combinations among radio stations, television stations, and newspapers would benefit consumers."

The affiliate associations of the major broadcast networks were among those urging the court to allow the looser rules.

Justices side with Facebook

In handing a victory to Facebook on Thursday, the court ruled that the company did not violate a federal law intended to cut down on robocalls.

A Montana man, Noah Duguid, sued the company after he received several text messages telling him someone had tried to get access to his Facebook account. But Duguid said he never had a Facebook account and never gave the company his cellphone number.

He claimed Facebook violated a federal law that restricts calls made with an automatic telephone dialing system. But the court's opinion, written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, said the law covers only devices that generate numbers randomly, which Facebook didn't use.

That ruling limits the reach of the robocall ban.

The company speculated that Duguid was assigned a cellphone number that belonged to a previous Facebook user.