UHF Discount Under Fire

A Senate panel endorsed a measure that would change the way UHF stations are counted, which could leave some companies above the FCC’s newly raised cap on their nationwide reach.

An amendment to the annual FCC reauthorization bill would scrap the 50 percent discount for UHF stations when calculating national reach. Critics of the discount have said that it is no longer appropriate in a time when most people get their signals from cable. If passed into law, some companies could find their national reach figure suddenly increased, potentially bumping them up against the audience cap that the FCC has just raised from 35 percent to 45 percent of the nation.

The Senate Commerce Committee also voted June 26 to order the FCC to review media ownership laws every four years instead of every two.

But the committee’s action is far from the last word. Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the committee would take on FCC issues at another hearing in July, presumably after Congress returns from July 4 recess.