Yesterday, in a very short one page decision, the US Court of Appeals rejected the requests filed by public interest groups to stay the effect of the FCC’s decision to reinstate the UHF discount (see our article here about some of the issues involved in this stay request, and our article here about the reinstatement of the UHF discount by the current FCC). For the foreseeable future, this decision will free many broadcast television groups to acquire more television stations as UHF stations (which most TV stations now are) count for only half their audience reach in assessing compliance with the 39% limit on the national audience share that any TV owner can have. While, contrary to some press reports, this does not signal the Court’s final approval of the FCC’s decision to reinstate the discount, it does suggest the direction which the Court is likely to take in its assessment of this Commission decision.

In rejecting the stay, the Court merely says that the public interest groups did not meet the high standards necessary for a stay. As we wrote in our article the week before last, and have written before in other contexts where stays of administrative decisions have been sought (see e.g. our article here), there is a high burden for any petitioner to meet before a stay is ordered. Basically, the court looks at questions including whether the petitioner has shown that it is likely to ultimately prevail in the final decision in the case, whether there are irreparable damages that will occur from not issuing the stay and how the equities of the situation weigh in deciding whether a stay should be imposed. Presumably, the Court here either decided that the public interest groups had not shown that they were likely to prevail in the ultimate appeal of the FCC’s decision, or that they had not shown that there would be irreparable harm from not imposing the stay.
Continue Reading Court Rejects Stay on FCC’s Reinstatement of UHF Discount – Does it Mean TV Ownership Consolidation is in the Clear?