FCC Opens Docket on Ending UHF Discount
May grandfather in groups exceeding national cap a la Sinclair
September 26, 2013
WASHINGTON— The Federal
Communications Commission has initiated a proceeding to consider eliminating
a provision that gives special treatment to UHF channels under its national
television ownership cap.
The UHF discount was adopted nearly 30 years ago when UHF
signals were regarded as technically inferior to VHF signals in analog
television broadcasting. The broadcast
television ownership rule prohibits a single entity from owning stations that
reach in the aggregate more than 39 percent of total television households nationwide.
The UHF discount allows stations
broadcasting in UHF to count toward that cap only 50 percent of the television
households in their Designated Market Areas, as opposed to the 100 perceent requirement
for VHF stations.
With the transition of full-power stations to digital broadcasting in 2009, the
technical inferiority of UHF appears to be a thing of the past. Therefore, the technical justification for the
UHF discount no longer seems to exist. With today’s action, the commission
seeks to ensure that its rules reflect the current state of television
broadcasting technology. The proceeding
also furthers the commission’s mandate to evaluate its rules to make
certain they continue to serve the public interest.
Specifically, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks comment on the following
tentative conclusions and proposals:
The commission has the authority to modify the
national television ownership rule, including the authority to revise or
eliminate the UHF discount.
The UHF discount should be eliminated from the
national television ownership rule because the historical justification for the
discount no longer exists.
Should the commission consider adopting a VHF
discount at this time?
If the UHF discount is eliminated,
grandfathering should be accorded to existing broadcast station ownership
groups that exceed the 39 percent national cap by virtue of the elimination
of the discount, and to proposed station combinations that would exceed the 39 percent cap if an application is pending with the commission or the commission has approved the transaction but it is not yet
consummated when the NPRM is released. (This would apply to Sinclair Broadcast Group.) Grandfathered ownership combinations
subsequently sold or transferred would be required to comply with the national
ownership cap in existence at the time of the transfer.
The docket is No. 13-236.