D.C. Appeals Court halts return of FCC's UHF discount for TV broadcasters

Gavel and flag in courtroom
The FCC argued that the groups filing the motion did not meet the requirements needed for granting a stay. (Getty/AlexStar)

The D.C. Court of Appeals has temporarily halted the FCC’s attempt to reinstate the UHF discount, which allows broadcasters to minimize UHF stations as counting toward the nationwide ownership cap.

On Thursday, the Court issue responded to an emergency motion by issuing an administrative stay. The Court reasoned that the stay would provide sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion for stay pending review and said that its action was not a ruling on the merits of that motion.

The Court is ordering petitioners to file a single reply in support of the emergency motion by 10 a.m. on June 7.

RELATED: Free Press, others urge court to stay return of the FCC’s UHF discount

Earlier this week, a group of petitioners filed for an emergency stay of the rule’s reinstatement. The Institute for Public Representation filed an emergency motion on behalf of Free Press, Media Mobilizing Project, Prometheus Radio Project, National Hispanic Media Coalition and Common Cause. The FCC was given until June 1 to respond, and did so by asking the Court to not issue a stay.

The FCC today argued that the groups that filed the motion did not meet the requirements needed for granting a stay.

The groups have argued that the technical logic for the UHF discount is no longer valid.

“It is arbitrary and capricious to adopt a provision that lacks any independent technical or policy support, and which contravenes the statutory limit on national television ownership,” the groups wrote in the filing.

The groups also argued that news of the reinstatement is effectively triggering a new wave of broadcast industry M&A and allowing deals like Sinclair’s $3.9 billion bid for Tribune to move forward. The groups also said that a stay will benefit the public interest by maintaining more diversity in broadcasting.