FCC Asks Court Not To Stay Ownership Rule

The commission asks a federal appeals court to reject a call to block the FCC's restoration the UHF discount, which increased the national coverage cap on station groups to as much as 78%.

The FCC today urged a federal appeals court to reject the call of a coalition of anti-big-media advocacy groups to stay the agency’s April 20 decision restoring the UHF discount to its national ownership rules — a move that effectively increased the household coverage cap on TV station groups from 39% to 78%.

The coalition’s argument for the stay pending full review of the FCC action falls “far short” of meeting the criteria for a stay, the FCC said.

First, it fails to show that it is likely to succeed on the merits of the case and, second, it fails to show that it will suffer irreparable harm, the FCC said.

Last year, the FCC led by Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler voted to eliminate the discount, lowing the cap. But that action was reversed in April by the Trump-appointed Republican Chairman Ajit Pai.

Before the Wheeler action, the FCC said in today’s filing, “the ownership cap and the UHF discount used in calculating coverage “operated together for more than three decades, and they are … ‘inextricably linked.'”

“The national cap never operated in the absence of the UHF discount, and repealing the UHF discount had the practical effect of substantially tightening the national cap.”


In restoring the discount, the filing says, the FCC “provided a detailed and reasoned explanation for the commission’s conclusion that the agency erred [last year] as a matter of law and policy by failing even to consider the impact of repealing the UHF discount on the national cap. “

The motion for the emergency stay was filed by the Institute for Public Representations at Georgetown University Law Center on behalf of Free Press, Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Prometheus Radio Project, Media Mobilizing Project, Media Alliance, National Hispanic Media Coalition and Common Cause.

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Shenee Howard says:

June 1, 2017 at 5:05 pm

If the FCC wants to loosen ownership regulations, then it should go into rule making mode, have hearings, commission impact assessments and propose the rule. Using an antiquated rule that was eliminated because its reason for being is no longer valid (UHF stations no longer have a disadvantage in audience reach, and in fact several heritage VHF stations broadcast on the UHF band in the digital age). Do it right. Even if it means Sinclair has to wait.

John Livingston says:

June 1, 2017 at 11:08 pm

FCC & NAB have made some great points to the court unlike Free Press which there claims have no merit whatsoever. The discount is needed for free market & business Wheeler was wrong to get rid of UHF discount without looking at other things. Judge will be wrong if they rule in favor the censorship group known as Free Press there always wrong.