Reps. Huffman and Price Introduce the Local and Independent Television Protection Act

March 14, 2019

Washington, D.C.- Representatives Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and David Price (D-NC) today introduced the Local and Independent Television Protection Act to protect local television markets across the country from corporate consolidation by permanently ending the so-called “UHF discount,” an obsolete FCC loophole that the Trump Administration revived in 2017 ahead of proposed corporate media mergers.

“The demise of the Sinclair-Tribune merger does nothing to lessen the threat of future media consolidation,” said Rep. Huffman. Americans should have a say in the news they watch to learn about the issues that matter to them. The outdated UHF discount allows conglomerates to monopolize broadcasts and exert even more control over our airwaysThe Local and Independent Television Protection Act will end this loophole and ensure access to the diverse and local news sources that are essential to a robust democracy.”

“Our democracy thrives on diverse media and the competition of ideas,” said Rep. Price. “By reinstating the obsolete UHF discount, the FCC is allowing media conglomerates to grow ever larger at the expense of Americans who want unbiased local broadcasting, not messaging that conforms to a corporate or political agenda. The Local and Independent Television Protection Act would ensure that the FCC puts the public interest ahead of the profits of giant media companies. I’m proud to reintroduce this important legislation with Congressman Huffman.”

"Local television remains a critically important source of local news. It's especially important for people of color, Spanish speakers, elderly populations, low-income individuals, and others who can't afford reliable internet access,” said Dana Floberg, Policy Manager, Free Press Action Fund. “Runaway media consolidation -- aided and abetted by antiquated loopholes like the UHF discount -- deprives these communities of the competition and diversity of voices they need. That discount is a relic of a bygone era, from a time when UHF signals were too weak to reach everyone. In the digital age the UHF discount is technologically obsolete, yet the current FCC chose to resurrect this rule to pave the way for mega-mergers proposed by conglomerates like Sinclair and Fox. We thank Reps. Huffman and Price for introducing this bill to close that loophole."

Federal law establishes a national television ownership cap to prevent any single company from owning television stations that collectively reach more than 39% of the country, a competition requirement to protect against media consolidation. However, the UHF discount allows media conglomerates to discount UHF stations (channels 14-83) by half when calculating whether the company is subject to the national television ownership cap. In April 2017, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai reinstated the UHF discount, which had been discontinued in 2016.

The national transition to digital television has eliminated any legitimate need for the discount. While the proposed Sinclair-Tribune merger was ultimately not approved, the UHF discount would still allow for exorbitant audience reach by other conglomerates – a single company can buy enough local TV stations to reach up to 78% of Americans, dramatically increasing their national scope, public influence, and control of household news content.

Specifically, the Local and Independent Television Protection Act:

  • Requires the FCC to act within 90 days to permanently end the UHF discount; and
  • Grandfathers any stations owned prior to September 26, 2013, which is commensurate with the FCC’s previous efforts to end the UHF discount.

The legislation is supported by: Free Press Action Fund, Consumer Reports, and Common Cause.