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Dems to Pai: Wait For Court UHF Decision

House Democrats are reinforcing their calls for the FCC not to rule on the Sinclair-Tribune deal until a federal appeals court rules on whether the FCC's return of the UHF discount, which made the deal possible, will stand.

FCc Chairman Ajit Pai has said he would factor the potential court decision into the FCC's decisionmaking but would not commit to delaying a decision for the court decision. ( The court could rule at any time, and the FCC won't be ruling on the merger until at least July 13, so events could moot the request.

In a letter to Pai ( under the lead signatures of California Reps. Tony Cardenas and Anna Eshoo, the reps said that if the FCC approved the deal before the court rules--they don't appear to mind if the FCC disapproved it first since they make clear they oppose the deal--it would be tantamount to a government-sanctioned Sinclair dominance of the broadcast industry.

"No other company will be able to compete with the combined Sinclair-Tribune," they say, though if the court upholds the FCC decision there would arguably be no reason that others could not challenge Sinclair by amassing UHFs, say from an Ion or Trinity.

Another other factor potentially affecting the deal is what the FCC does about the 39% national ownership cap in tandem with the UHF discount. The FCC is reportedly planning to vote on an item stemming from its review of both. In fact, the meeting is scheduled for July 12, the same day comments are due on the latest version of the Sinclair-Tribune deal.

If the FCC, say, eliminated the UHF discount but also raised the 39% cap to 50% as some broadcasters have sought (, or eliminated it, or dropped the UHF discount but added a 50% VHF discount, the court decision might itself be mooted, or at least muted.

That would also mean Sinclair would have to remake its decision one more time ( to spin off more stations.