ACA: UHF Discount Should Not Convey

The American Cable Association has told the FCC it strongly supports eliminating the UHF discount and even the grandfathering of existing combos but says those grandfathered groups' discount should not convey if they are sold to a new owner.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler in June circulated a proposal eliminating the discount for a vote by the other commissioners.

The discount dates from the analog era when UHF signals were weaker than VHF. The FCC decided to count only half an UHF's coverage toward its 39% cap on the number of households any broadcast group could reach.

The FCC has been talking about eliminating the discount ever since the digital switch, which UHF suddenly became the stronger signal due to its propagation characteristics.

In a letter to the FCC this week, ACA said that eliminating the discount is justified "by the facts, the record."

ACA said that retaining the discount would "exacerbate the harmful effects" of consolidation by allowing the largest groups to maintain an audience share beyond what Congress had envisioned (with the 39% cap, which was legislated).

ACA sees that consolidation as an unfair thumb on the scale in retrans negotiations and sees the UHF discount elimination as a way to mitigate that.

The FCC plans to grandfather existing combos as of the time of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking's June 28 release, as well as any deals in the works.

ACA is OK with that, so long as the FCC requires divestments to get under the 39% cap if any of those grandfathered groups are sold.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.