Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael K Powell declared the recent courtroom decision on America's media ownership rules "a deep disappointment".

His rue follows last week's ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia which consigned to the trashcan the slackened rules on media ownership introduced last July by the Republican-controlled commission.

The FCC's controversial 3-2 ruling, split on partisan lines, had been aggressively lobbied for by major media owners such as News Corporation and Viacom. It greatly eased extant restrictions on ownership, in particular those which prevented any single company from owning both a newspaper and a TV or radio station in the same city.

In an interview with the Washington Post Tuesday, chairman Powell deplored the lack of deference shown by the court to the FCC as the government agency charged with reviewing and updating such rules.

Some of agency's new rules, he said, were substitutes for previous attempts to limit ownership that had been thrown out by other courts. The appeal court's rejection of a second set of ownership rules called the whole process into question, Powell complained.

"The previous [Democrat-controlled] commission drew tighter lines, and the court said they could not justify those. This commission drew slightly looser lines, and we still couldn't justify those," said Powell, appointed by the incoming Bush administration in 2001.

He continued: "It may not be possible to line-draw. Part of me says maybe the best answer is to evaluate on a case-by-case basis. The commission may end up getting more pushed in that direction."

It is uncertain as yet whether the FCC will refer the case to the Supreme Court. Implementation of the new rules is frozen until the agency decides whether to appeal the latest decision or submit rewritten versions of the rules to the appeals court.

According to former vice president J Danforth Quayle, the USA boasts 70% of the globe's lawyers.

Data sourced from: The Washington Post Online; additional content by WARC staff