Pelosi: FCC Can't Apply UHF Discount to Sinclair Deal

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, joined by the ranking members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and Communications Subcommittee, have told the FCC Commissioners that Sinclair should not be allowed to use the UHF discount to exceed the 39% national audience reach cap because that would violate the 'will of Congress.'

It at least clearly violates the will of those three.

The FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai restored the UHF discount, which counts only half a station group's UHF TV's toward that cap, but the trio of high-profile Democrats argue that the FCC did not have the authority to modify that 39% cap, including via a discount, and Sinclair should not be able to use it to help it keep more stations in the proposed Tribune deal.

"By explicitly excluding review of the cap from the congressionally mandated quadrennial review of broadcast ownership rules, we make clear that the FCC is not permitted to change or evade that national cap," they wrote. Joining Pelosi were Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Communications Subcommittee ranking member Mike Doyle (D-Pa.).

They argue that the FCC can't renew licenses for group owners who exceed the 39% cap, so must order divestitures.

Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly has said that he does not think the FCC has the authority to change the cap, which the Dems try to use to their advantage.

"The majority of the Commission correctly believes that Congress imposed a 39% national cap for broadcasters and that we [Congress] did not create any loopholes around this cap."

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.