UHF Discount Comment Due Date Set
FCC proposes eliminating ownership break
November 14, 2013
— The rule that now counts one UHF TV station as half of a whole
is up for target practice at the Federal Communications Commission. The
commission recently released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to eliminate the
so-called “UHF discount,” under which a UHF license is discounted by 50 percent
when considering media ownership caps in a given market. The NPRM has now been
published in the Federal
, triggering the 60-day comment period. Comments on the dockets,
Nos. 13-236 and 13-123, are now due Dec. 16, 2013.
Current TV station
ownership rules prohibit a single entity from owning television stations that
reach more than 39 percent of U.S. TV households. The UHF discount rule was
enacted before the 2009 digital transition.
“The UHF discount was adopted in recognition of the technical inferiority of
UHF signals in analog television broadcasting, and was intended to mitigate the
competitive disadvantages that UHF stations experienced in comparison to VHF
stations because of their weaker signals and smaller audience reach,” the
Notice states. “However, there is serious question whether this justification
for the UHF discount continues to exist in light of the transition of
full-power television stations to digital broadcasting completed on June 12,
2009. Our experience since the DTV transition suggests that UHF channels may
actually be superior to VHF channels when it comes to the transmission of
The Notice assumes that the UHF discount is obsolete, though it would
grandfather station groups that exceed the 39 percent national audience cap
without the discount. Sinclair would be among such groups.
The Notice conversely asks if a VHF discount might be in order, since “it
appears that under current conditions, VHF channels may be technically inferior
to UHF channels for the propagation of digital television signals.”
Replies are due Jan. 13, 2014, 30 days
after the initial comment deadline.