FCC To Court: Respect Our Authority On UHF Discount


“We did what we’re allowed to do.”

That’s pretty much what the FCC told the U.S. Court of Appeals’ D.C. Circuit on Tuesday (11/7) with respect to the much-debated restoration of its “UHF Discount,” arguing that it did so with full abidance of Federal laws.

News of the FCC’s defense was first reported late Wednesday by Law360, following up on challenge to the Court’s decision that the FCC was within the scope of the law when it restored the discount, which cuts in half the reach of any television channel broadcasting between UHF 14 and UHF 69 in respect to the 39% national ownership cap.

Nonprofit organizations including Free Press, Common Cause, and Prometheus Radio Project sued the FCC in May 2017, protesting that the UHF discount’s restoration would lead to that the move by the agency to reinstate the discount would lead to “substantial consolidation” of television station ownership. They also assert that the FCC lacks the statutory authority to adjust or amend the national ownership cap.

The April restoration of the UHF Discount was done, Republican Commissioners say, so that the FCC can look in full at all of the FCC’s ownership restrictions and then review, adjust or amend the current rules in a proper manner. Democrats Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel have put up a spirited fight against this belief, but are in the minority and will likely fail to sway the three solid GOP votes set to come on ownership deregulation.

In a ruling made June 15 by the D.C. Circuit, the FCC may move forward with its return of the so-called “UHF discount” — setting the stage for what could be a flurry of deals akin to Sinclair Broadcast Group‘s announced acquisition of Tribune Media.

Without the return of the UHF discount, the Sinclair-Tribune deal and others like it would have likely been scuttled.