Stations Seek End To UHF Discount

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Network affiliates are asking the FCC to take steps to keep networks from being able to own more stations after the digital transition, and to preserve the rule preventing any two of the Big Four networks to merge.

In its comments to the FCC's media ownership rule rewrite, the Network Affiliate Stations Alliance said that the FCC needs to sunset its 50% discount on UHF stations before the transition to digital. The FCC only counts half of a UHF station's reach toward its national cap of 39% of TV households.

The commission has indicated the technical basis for the discount will be eliminated by the digital transmission because the relative signal strength of VHFs and UHFs will be effectively equalized.

But after the transition, many VHF stations are moving to the UHF band, where there coverage will suddenly be halved, says NASA, if the discount remains. Otherwise, they argue, networks will be able to increase their holdings above current limits. But NASA doesn't want to be unnecessarily punitive, saying the networks reach should be grandfathered when the discount is discarded, otherwise, it says, all of their current holdings would suddenly exceed the cap.

NASA said that the dual network rule was still needed and that the networks were not "in such a weakened condition in the new competitive landscape that an abandonment of the dual network rule would be justified."

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