FCC Takes Second Look at UHF Discount Rule
On Friday, February 20, 2004, the Federal Communications Commission asked for public comment on one of its June rulings, the discount for UHF stations. Traditionally, the FCC has counted the audience for UHF channels at 50% of their reach because of the weaker signal broadcast by UHF stations. With the advent of cable and satellite, some argue that UHF stations now reach a much larger audience.
On February 11, Capitol Broadcasting Company and Media Access Project appeared before the Third Circuit US Court of Appeals in Philadelphia to argue against the 50% discount. The argument came as part of a larger lawsuit by a coalition of organizations, including CBC, against the June FCC ruling that significantly loosened media regulations.
In June the FCC raised the national broadcast ownership cap to 45%, from the previous 35% cap. Then in January 2004, Congress passed a bill to set the cap at 39%.
The FCC wants public comment to determine if the UHF discount should stand or whether the discount gives the UHF owners an unfair advantage.
Judges in the Appeals Court case are expected to hand down a decision in the spring.