A federal appeals court late Thursday declined to grant an FCC request that would have avoided a stay of its vote that reinstated the “UHF discount.” But, it’s only an administrative stay—giving the court a bit more time to look at arguments for and against eased restrictions on station ownership.
Even so, the administrative stay effectively negates the anticipated Monday (6/5) return of the discount. A new effective date for the UHF discount is now forthcoming, and it could result in jittery investors on Wall Street, as Sinclair Broadcast Group‘s proposed acquisition of Tribune Media is predicated squarely on the restoration of the UHF discount.
The discount allows broadcast TV companies to count only half of the UHF station’s audience toward the 39% ownership cap. Proponents say UHF stations are at a historical disadvantage to VHF stations; opposition, led by former Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, say the discount is a relic of a bygone era and needed to be removed.
While many Republicans may agree, they argue that all of the FCC’s ownership rules must be considered together, and that the removal of the UHF discount without looking at other aspects of FCC regulation — including subcaps, which limit the number of radio stations a single owner can own on the AM or FM band in a given market.
Free Press and Prometheus are the parties that sought an emergency stay of the UHF discount’s return.
A three-judge U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia panel is considering the matter.