It says the dispute over the MSO’s dropping WJLA Washington did not amount to “bad faith bargaining,” saying, “Even with good faith, impasse is possible.”
Allbritton Communications Co. in January filed an emergency petition with the FCC charging cable MSO Shentel Telecommunications Co. with “bad faith bargaining” as it dropped Allbritton’s ABC affiliate WJLA Washington (DMA 8) from carriage to 8,200 subscribers in Shenandoah County Va., on Dec 31, 2011. According to Allbritton, “despite WJLA’s acceptance of Shentel’s offer on the table, Shentel reneged at the 11th hour, leaving its Washington market subscribers without ABC7 programming.”
On Friday, the FCC came down in favor of Shentel.
“We find that Allbritton has failed to meet its burden of proving that Shentel did not negotiate retransmission consent in good faith…. Although Allbritton may regret that it did not accept Shentel’s Nov. 10 offer when it was available, that does not mean that Shentel failed to negotiate retransmission consent in good faith. Based on the account of what transpired between the parties, once Allbritton made a counteroffer to the offer that Shentel put forth on Nov. 10 and reiterated on Dec. 6, Shentel was no longer bound to its Nov. 10 offer.”
The commission continued: “We conclude that Shentel did not violate the good faith negotiation requirements. At its core, this dispute involves a fundamental disagreement between the parties over the appropriate valuation of WJLA’s signal to Shentel. Such a disagreement without more is not indicative of a lack of good faith. Even with good faith, impasse is possible.”