×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Appeals Court Dismisses Challenge to FCC’s ‘UHF Discount’

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court dismissed a challenge to the FCC’s continued use of a rule that allows broadcasters to get a break for their UHF holdings.

The so-called “UHF discount” allows media companies to count their UHF stations at half their reach, which has allowed many station groups to amass more outlets and still fall within limits to broadcast ownership.

The appeals court said that the plaintiffs in the case, including the public interest group Free Press, lacked standing, but said that they did not consider the merits of the case.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said that he was “pleased with the court’s decision to reject this challenge to the reinstatement of the UHF discount pending the completion of our comprehensive review of the national ownership cap.”

The discount was put in place in the 1980s as a way to give stations a break given that the UHF signal was typically a poorer quality with a shorter reach. But those differences disappeared with the transition to digital television, and in 2016, the FCC voted to abolish it.

That changed when Pai became chairman and Republicans took the majority on the commission. They voted to restore the discount in April, 2017, arguing that it such a move had to be considered in conjunction with looking at other media ownership limits.

At a D.C. Circuit hearing in the spring, a three-judge panel appeared to question why an obsolete rule was still on the books. But they also raised some questions about the standing of public interest advocates who brought the case.

“The administrative record here identified a proposed merger (between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media Company) that petitioners contend would result in a degree of broadcaster consolidation permissible only with the reinstatement of the challenged UHF discount,” the judges said in an unpublished order issued on Wednesday. “But the record did not contain — and petitioners’ initial submissions failed to provide — evidence that any member of any petitioner organization is a viewer in an affected market or otherwise stands to be injured by the identified consolidation.”

Critics said that the FCC’s move last year to reinstate the UHF discount paved the way for Sinclair’s agreement to acquire Tribune Media. But now that merger is in doubt, after Pai, citing “serious concerns,” moved last week to send the transaction to an administrative law judge for review.

Pai launched a proceeding earlier this year to consider changes to the FCC’s media ownership rules, including the cap that limits broadcast station holdings to no more than 39% of the country.

Jessica Gonzalez of Free Press, which was one of the group’s that challenged the UHF discount, said that they were “disappointed that this panel of judges refused to rule on the FCC’s phony math and poor excuses for the obsolete and harmful UHF discount.”

She said that  “it’s especially unfortunate that the FCC and the big broadcasters the UHF discount favors chose to put the question of standing in front of the judges, rather than engaging strictly on the merits — or lack thereof — in the agency’s decision. We’re consulting with our fellow petitioners and the lawyers who handled the case to explore what options we might have in court.”

Other groups that joined Free Press as plaintiffs were Common Cause, Media Alliance, the Media Mobilizing Project, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Prometheus Radio Project and the United Church of Christ Office of Communication.

 

More Politics

  • Donald Trump

    Trump Offers to Extend DACA Protections in Exchange for Border Wall Funding

    WASHINGTON — President Trump on Saturday made an offer to extend temporary protections to those brought to the United States by their undocumented parents, saying that it was a way to “break the logjam” that has led to a protracted government shutdown, now in its 29th day. But Democrats appear ready to reject the deal, [...]

  • Donald Trump

    BuzzFeed Stands by Its Trump Report After Mueller Objection: 'No Indication' of Inaccuracies

    UPDATED: WASHINGTON — BuzzFeed News released a statement Saturday standing by their Thursday report that Donald Trump directed his then-attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow after the Mueller team disputed the report Friday. “As we’ve re-confirmed our reporting, we’ve seen no indication that any specific aspect [...]

  • Nancy Pelosi Donald Trump

    Government Shutdown Turns Into a Battle for Attention in D.C.

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign blasted out a new promotion on Friday: Send a brick to either House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer by midnight. “Since Chuck and Nancy keep stonewalling the President, we’ll send the wall to them, brick by brick, until they agree to secure the border!” [...]

  • Women's March rallyWomen's March rally, New

    Celebrity Speakers Expected at Women's March, Despite Controversies

    Much of the media attention on this year’s Women’s March has focused on discord: Allegations that some of its leaders made anti-Semitic remarks, the association of one of its co-founders with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and the decision by a number of high profile politicians not to attend. While those controversies have overshadowed [...]

  • US President Donald J. Trump speaks

    Democrats Vow to Investigate Latest Trump Russia Bombshell

    WASHINGTON — Washington woke up on Friday to the prospect that the Russia investigation has gone to another level, with BuzzFeed‘s report that President Donald Trump instructed his then-personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. The article, citing two federal law enforcement sources, was one [...]

  • Donald Trump

    Trump Cancels Pelosi's Trip in Response to Her Call to Delay State of the Union

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump informed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he was canceling an overseas trip she planned to take aboard a government aircraft this weekend, responding to a letter in which she suggested that they postpone the State of Union address until the shutdown ends. Pelosi was set to travel to Brussels, Egypt, [...]

  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

    Kirsten Gillibrand Kicks Off Her Campaign and Plans L.A. Visit Next Week

    WASHINGTON — Fresh off announcing on “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” that she is entering the 2020 presidential race, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has been taking the traditional next step in the process: Contacting potential donors. Sources said Gillibrand is planning a visit to Los Angeles on Jan. 22, next Tuesday, to meet with potential [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content