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UHF Item Still 'In Flux' at FCC

At press time early Wednesday afternoon, edits and proposals continued to circulate around the FCC's eighth floor (where the commissioners reside) over the issue of when the UHF TV station discount would no longer be in effect, according to FCC sources.

Sources described the process as still in flux but said Sept. 26 would likely be the effective trigger date.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking if it is voted at the FCC's public meeting Sept. 26 as planned, is expected to exempt deals currently submitted to the FCC--most notably Tribune/Local TV, which would be affected by the change. But it is unclear whether the trigger will be Sept. 26 or when the order is finally voted, which would take at least a couple of months. That issue was said to be the source of the "flux."

The commission is almost certain to vote to eliminate the discount, which counts only 50% of a UHF station toward the FCC's 39% cap on one broadcast group owner's national audience reach. It dates from when UHF signals were inferior to VHF, which is the reverse in the digital age.

What is at issue is whether a majority of the commissioners will try to prevent a rush of under-the-wire deals by signaling it will treat any deals filed after Sept. 26 as though the rules were already in effect, something for which there is precedent, according to various FCC vets.