The D.C Circuit Court of Appeals today stayed a vote by the FCC to reinstate a rule that would ease restrictions on TV station mergers. The ruling (read it here) allows the court time to further review the rule, known as the UHF discount, which had been scrapped last fall.
New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was among the dissenters in that September 2016 decision to abandon the rule, and its reinstatement was seen as a driver in allowing Sinclair to make its $3.9 billion cash-and-stock offer to acquire Tribune, which would make it the nation’s most powerful local TV broadcaster.
Today’s ruling calls for petitioners to reply by June 7, but opposition filings are already coming in from Sinclair (read its filing here) and other major station groups including Tribune, Fox and Ion (read that here). The rule had been expected to be reinstated early next week.
The 30-year-old rule allowed stations to “discount” the reach of stations that broadcast on the UHF band, making it easier to meet the limits of owning a maximum of 39% of all TV households. That in turn made station mergers easier to pass muster.