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Rep. Eshoo to FCC’s Pai: Don't Reinstate UHF Discount or Raise Cap

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), former chair of the House Communications Subcommittee, says she has serious concerns about FCC chairman Ajit Pai's proposal to reinstate the UHF discount.

A vote is scheduled April 20 on that proposal. 

Eshoo said she had worries about preserving viewpoint diversity following what she said would be the resulting consolidation and added that broadcast TV represents a "bulwark" against fake news, but only a media with "vibrant and diverse ownership." 

Part of rescinding the UHF discount's elimination, Pai signaled, was to review the rules more holistically. 

Pai has said the discount may have outlived its usefulness, which Eshoo noted, but he took issue with the FCC, under predecessor Tom Wheeler, eliminating it without at the same time raising the national ownership cap or perhaps adding a VHF ownership discount. 

Eshoo also has issues with Pai's consideration of raising that national ownership cap. She warned that a proceeding to consider increasing that cap "runs contrary to congressional intent." 

The UHF discount dates from when UHFs were the weaker signal—in analog—and those stations only counted half as much as VHFs toward the 39% cap on a TV station group owners national reach.

Eshoo urged Pai not to "move forward" with eliminating the discount or raising the cap, saying that "in a Democracy, there should be many voices to the many, not fewer."

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.