Upton, Walden Express Concern With FCC Proposal that Changes Rules in the Middle of the Game

September 13, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) yesterday wrote to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn regarding a proposal to do away with the Ultra High Frequency Band (UHF) discount, expressing particular concern with any retroactive application of the proposal to existing station ownership calculations or pending transactions made in compliance with current rules. Television media ownership is capped at 39 percent of the United States’ viewing population, made up of stations broadcasting in both the UHF and Very High Frequency (VHF) bands. The UHF discount reduces the percentage of the viewers of a UHF station that are counted when calculating an ownership group's coverage. Changing the calculation could cause holdings of existing station groups and those with transactions pending to run afoul of the rules.

In the letter to Acting Chairwoman Clyburn, Upton and Walden wrote, “While we are not convinced that the existing limitations on broadcast ownership as a whole are appropriate or necessary in today’s competitive media marketplace, we have particular apprehension about this proposed change and its effect on the business decisions of broadcast station group owners. Specifically, we are concerned that elimination of the UHF discount could inequitably harm those broadcast owners with pending transactions that were initiated under the existing UHF discount rule.”

The leaders continued, “Changes to the current calculation could potentially drive existing station groups and those with pending transactions over the new limit, forcing them to make divestitures to comply with the law or to proceed with their proposed transaction. This outcome would unfairly punish businesses that have complied with the commission’s rules in good faith and that entered into transactions in reliance on the commission’s rules. We urge the commission to ensure that any changes it makes to the UHF discount rule respect the holdings of existing licensees and applications pending at the commission and are only applied prospectively to applications filed after the adoption of a new rule.”

To read the letter, click here.

###