biased election specials targeting Democratic presidential candidates, and there is fear that if one company owns all the stations in a market, they will control the news content of every show. (Associated Press photo by Steve Ruark)
"Under current FCC rules, the reach of a broadcaster's TV stations may not exceed 39 percent of U.S. households," Yu writes. "But broadcasters have been allowed to count UHF stations as having only 50 percent of the reach of VHF stations. UHF signals didn't cover as much ground when stations were still broadcasting in analog signals. The prevalence of digital signals now makes the UHF-VHF distinction largely moot, and the FCC has plans to eliminate the UHF discount. If the discount is eliminated, Sinclair's total U.S. household reach — if counting all 149 stations — will jump overnight to about 38.2 perecnt, bringing it awfully close to that 39 percent limit. With the discount, Sinclair's reach would be about 22 percent."
If the UHF discount goes away, as is widely expected, Sinclair may turn to an old industry maneuver to find other ways to continue to mushroom, Yu writes. "The FCC prohibits the owner of a station that is among the top four in local viewership to buy another top-four station in the same market. Broadcasters have relied on 'shared services agreements' or 'local marketing agreements' to get around the restrictions. In such arrangements, a broadcaster buying a station can recruit or create a separate corporate entity to own the station. In return for a fee, the broadcaster then provides a range of services for the station owner, ranging from merely selling ads and negotiating retransmission fees to assuming editorial operations. Cable companies and media critics say the practice has been abused by broadcasters in pursuit of industry consolidation. They argue that shared service agreements erode stations' independence and programming quality because one company controls multiple voices." (Read more)