Common Cause joins Public Knowledge in Requesting FCC Delay Review of Sinclair-Tribune Merger Pending D.C. Circuit Case

Today, Common Cause joined Public Knowledge in filing a motion requesting the FCC hold the Sinclair-Tribune merger review in abeyance pending the D.C. Circuit’s review of the agency’s decision to reinstate the UHF Discount. The UHF discount is a provision that allows broadcasters operating UHF stations to only count half their coverage area when determining if they fall under the national ownership cap. The UHF discount was eliminated in 2016 after the FCC found there was no longer a technical justification for it. However, the current FCC voted to reinstate the UHF discount last year. Soon after the FCC reinstated the UHF discount, Sinclair announced its merger with Tribune. Without the UHF discount, Sinclair’s merger would allow it to reach 72% of households nationwide far exceeding the 39% ownership cap set by Congress.

Common Cause is one of the petitioners who filed a legal challenge at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on the FCC’s decision to reinstate the UHF discount. The D.C. Circuit is currently reviewing whether the FCC’s decision to reinstate the UHF discount was arbitrary and capricious.

“The Commission is aware that the D.C. Circuit is currently reviewing the agency’s decision to reinstate the UHF discount, a regulatory loophole that would allow Sinclair to own stations well beyond the Congressionally-mandated 39 percent ownership cap,” said Yosef Getachew, director of Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Program. Deciding on the merger prior to the D.C. Circuit’s decision has the potential to grant an unjustifiably high degree of ownership to a single entity without regard for the court’s interpretation of the law. Because the Sinclair merger will have far-reaching and long-lasting impact on consumers, the FCC should delay its review of the merger until the D.C. Circuit has made a decision on whether the UHF discount is arbitrary and capricious.”

To view the filing, click here.