FCC Chairman Ajit Pai circulates a draft of a rulemaking to consider retaining, modifying or eliminating the cap that, with the restoration of the UHF discount earlier this year, now enables TV station groups to reach as many as 78% of TV homes. A vote on the proposal is set for Dec. 14.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today issued the following statement on the draft rulemaking that he circulated to his fellow commissioners today, seeking comment on whether the FCC should “modify, retain or eliminate” the national TV station ownership cap.
The draft is expected to be released publicly tomorrow with a vote on whether to launch the proceeding set for Dec. 14.
Earlier this year, the commission reinstated the UHF discount, which had the effect on raising the cap from 39% to 78%, Pai said. Last year, he suggested, erred when it eliminated the discount and “effectively tightened the cap without determining whether that was in the public interest.”
“Because the national cap and the UHF discount are inextricably linked, any review of one component of the rule must include a review of the other.”
“Under the proposal that I shared with my colleagues today, we would go about determining the future of the national cap, including the UHF discount, the right way.
“Specifically, we would seek public input on whether to modify, retain, or eliminate the 39% national cap as well as the UHF discount [that doubles the cap to 78%]. With respect to legal authority, in 2016 the commission ‘conclude[d] that [it] has the authority to modify the national audience reach cap, including the authority to revise or eliminate the UHF discount’; we will take a fresh look at this issue as well.
“A comprehensive review of the rule is warranted in light of considerable marketplace changes, such as technological developments and increased video programming options for consumers, since the cap was last modified in 2004.”