Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports, offers comment on the questions presented in this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) concerning the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) national television audience reach cap and the so-called UHF discount. The cap, which has been in existence in some form since the 1940s, has a simple purpose: to ensure that no single entity owns a number of broadcast stations that, in the aggregate, reach more than a certain percentage (currently set at 39 percent) of American households. Consumers Union believes the FCC got it right two years ago, and that the Commission has the authority to both adjust the cap and do away with the UHF discount, based upon the statutory interpretation of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2004 (CAA).
Consumers Union does not believe the cap is an antiquated notion from a bygone era; rather, that is how we view the UHF discount. In the face of increased media consolidation and relaxation of other media ownership rules, we strongly believe that the cap can and will protect consumers from even worse outcomes and price increases posed by a broken retransmission consent system. Until Congress or the FCC takes on an overhaul of how retransmission consent fees are bargained for and paid for, the cap is one measure that can protect consumers.