Pelosi urges FCC to reject changes to media ownership rule

Pelosi urges FCC to reject changes to media ownership rule
© Greg Nash

Top House Democrats are urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not to make changes to a media ownership rule they believe would threaten the diversity of news outlets.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Wednesday asking him to reconsider voting on a rule that would make it easier for media companies to consolidate.

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At issue is a proposal to reinstate the so-called UHF discount, which makes it easier for broadcasting companies to acquire stations that broadcast on the ultra-high frequency (UHF) without going over the legal limits on media ownership.

“There is no justification for the FCC to restore the UHF Loophole,” Pelosi and Pallone wrote. “The UHF Loophole is unfair to the public because it treats UHF stations differently only for one purpose -- to let big station conglomerates own more stations across the country.”

Last year, the Democratic-controlled FCC under the Obama administration voted to get rid of the discount. But Pai has proposed bringing it back.

Pai says he believes the discount is outdated but wants to restore it and then take up the broader question of whether the agency should lift the media ownership caps. Currently, broadcasters are limited to serving 39 percent of households.

The FCC will vote on the proposed rule Thursday, and it is expected to pass.

Pelosi and Pallone wrote that they are concerned that reinstating the discount could lead to Sinclair Broadcast Group going forward with its reported plans to acquire Tribune Broadcasting, a deal that Democrats believe could hurt media diversity and raise prices for consumers.