The regulators must now return to the drawing board and revise the rules.

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WASHINGTON — The Bush administration won’t appeal to the Supreme Court to try to revive sweeping changes in media ownership rules that were thrown out by a federal court.

The Federal Communications Commission had until Monday to decide whether to appeal the ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. The Justice Department, in consultation with the FCC, decided against an appeal, FCC spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher said today.

The regulators must now return to the drawing board and revise the rules. Fisher did not explain why the administration decided not to appeal.

The Republican-dominated FCC completed two years of review and voted 3-2 along party lines in 2003 to ease decades-old ownership restrictions. The changes included allowing a single company to own TV stations and a newspaper in the same area.

Critics said such a change would encourage mergers and stifle diversity in news and entertainment.

Another change thrown out by the appeals court would have allowed companies to own more television and radio stations in a single market.

The lower court ruling did not affect national limits on broadcast ownership. The FCC had raised the limits on the size of the national audience that can be reached by a single owner of TV stations from 35 percent to 45 percent, but Congress later passed a law that established a 39 percent cap.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell, who is leaving the agency in March, was at a conference in Switzerland today. His spokesman, Richard Diamond, declined to comment.

The commission’s two Democratic members, Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps, had voted against the FCC rules. Both men on Thursday praised the Bush administration’s decision.

“We really have to do this from scratch. It gives us an opportunity to get this right this time,” Adelstein said in an interview.