As we wrote about at the time, in April the Pai FCC continued its efforts to modernize broadcast regulation by restoring an old rule–the UHF Discount–until it can take a broader look at its national ownership cap later this year. While restoration of the Discount merely reinstated the status quo that existed before the Wheeler FCC’s rushed effort to eliminate the Discount last fall, the decision was greeted with disdain by advocacy groups concerned about media consolidation.
After the Commission’s April 20 vote to restore the UHF Discount, those groups filed a request that the FCC stay the rule change rather than let it go into effect on June 5, 2017. The FCC did not act on that stay request, leading the groups to file an additional stay request with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on May 26, 2017.
Given the short time span between the stay filing and the effective date of the Discount reinstatement, the court issued an administrative stay of the effectiveness of the change until it could complete its review of the request and oppositions filed subsequently. A fair amount of public confusion was caused when a number of publications reported that administrative stay as “court stays reinstatement of UHF Discount”, failing to note that it was just a short term stay unrelated to the merits of the case.
This morning, the court lifted that administrative stay, and denied the groups’ larger request for a stay pending court review of the FCC’s order reinstating the UHF Discount. In a one-page order, the court tersely stated that the “Petitioners have not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending review” and denied the request.
As a result, the UHF Discount is once again the law of the land. It is of course still subject to the pending appeal, which the court will rule on at a later date. However, even that appeal could be mooted by whatever action the FCC takes in its comprehensive review of the national ownership rule later this year.