FCC Extends Comment Period on UHF Reconsideration Petition

The FCC's Media Bureau has extended the comment period for those weighing in on a challenge by TV station owners ION Media and Trinity Christian Center to the FCC's decision to eliminate the UHF discount.

The commission historically counted only half the reach of a UHF station in terms of the national audience reach cap of 39%, dating from the analog era when UHF signals were weaker and less desirable than UHF, a table that was turned in digital.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler circulated an item eliminating the discounts back in the summer. It was approved in September.

ION and Trinity filed their petition to reconsider that decision Nov. 23, and the FCC set the comment deadlines for due Dec. 27 and Jan. 6 (reply comments).

Related: ION Has Its Eye on Keeping UHF Discount

Last week, Free Press, Common Cause, the Media Alliance and the United Church of Christ jointly filed a motion for an extension of those deadlines to Jan. 10 and Jan. 23, respectively, citing the holidays and the difficulty counsel Andrew Schwartzman would have consulting with clients to develop a full and complete record, as well as the timing given the transition to a new administration.

The bureau said that developing a complete record was good cause for granting the extension.

ION and Trinity used the UHF discount to build their portfolios beyond what VHF owners could accumulate.

The FCC had already sunset the discount for the Big Four broadcast groups but not for other groups.

The commission did grandfather existing combos as well as any deals in the works.

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.