When the FCC last month reinstated the UHF discount (see our article here), it opened the door to ownership consolidation in the television industry, and immediately deals were announced based on the discount being back in place. But public interest groups in DC, fearing too much consolidation, asked the FCC to stay the effect of the rules. When the FCC did not act, the public interest groups last week asked the US Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia for a stay to put the rules on hold. In response, the Court order expedited briefing on the stay request, with the FCC filing its brief Thursday (here) and the public interest groups scheduled to file their brief shortly. Then late yesterday, the Court issued what it termed an “administrative stay” – temporarily putting the rules on hold while it considers the briefs filed by the parties. The Court was careful to say that this administrative stay was not any sort of judgment on the merits of the stay request – it was just putting everything on hold while the Court considered the arguments of the parties.
While there seems to be a rush to put everything on hold, it is interesting to note that there does not seem to be any imminent risk of anything happening, as the FCC procedurally does not seem to be in a position to imminently grant any application that would create new combinations taking advantage of the reinstated UHF discount. Regardless of this anomalous rush to a decision, the issue to be considered by the Court in assessing any stay request is whether the public interest groups have a likelihood of success on the merits of the case, and whether there is irreparable injury if the stay is not issued (see our article here discussing the standards for a judicial stay). In this case, the Court will be assessing whether the new FCC’s reinstatement of the UHF discount was an arbitrary and capricious decision to overturn the FCC’s abolition of the discount – which took place just last August (see our article after the full text of that order was released in September, here).
Continue Reading Court Issues an Administrative Stay on Effective Date of Reinstatement of UHF Discount While It Considers Arguments as to Whether to Put the Discount on Hold