NHMC joined Free Press and five other civil rights organizations in a request for judicial review of the FCC’s decision to reinstate the UHF discount. We have urged the Court to vacate or reverse the UHF Reconsideration Order for several reasons.
First, the FCC conceded that the original justification for the UHF discount has disappeared. At its inception, the UHF discount was designed to allow smaller networks to merge without violating media ownership limits and prevented larger broadcasters from monopolizing the media market. The FCC eliminated the UHF discount in 2015 because UHF stations are now equal, if not superior, to VHF stations. Nevertheless, the FCC recently voted to restore this outdated provision without reversing the previous findings that it was obsolete and failed to provide any independent policy support.
Second, the FCC also stated that it should have considered the UHF discount in conjunction with a proceeding to reevaluate the 39% national ownership cap. However, the FCC lacks the statutory authority to make any such modification to the national ownership cap. As we await judicial review, a grant of stay at the FCC would protect and promote the public interest by placing a hold on acquisitions that would have otherwise violated the media ownership cap rules due to the UHF discount. As stated in the stay petition, “Maintaining a diversity of voices goes to the heart of the Commission’s mission to promote competition and diversity.”