Having lost Sinclair TV signals in wake of failed retrans talks, the cable operators appealed to key member of House and Senate for aid in restoring the signals. While its subscribers suffer, Mediacom charges, Sinclair CEO David Smith is off on a goose chase (literally).
Having failed to enlist the FCC in its retrans fight with the Sinclair, Mediacom appealed to Congress to restore Sinclair TV signals to its cable systems and to launch an investigation into retrans abuses and the FCC’s handling of the Sinclair-Mediacom affair.
The appeal came in the form of a letter last Friday to the members of Congress who represent Mediacom employees and customers in 23 states. The list of addressees also includes the chairmen of the House and Senate committees overseeing communications policy.
The letter is the latest turn in a running battle in which Sinclair has been demanding hefty cash payments from the cable operators for permission to carry Sinclair stations.
After the collapse of retransmission consent negotiations, Sinclair stations in 16 markets went dark on Mediacom’s system on Jan. 6, affecting some 700,000 Mediacom subscribers.
The FCC last Friday decided not to intervene, and Sinclair rejected Mediacom’s call for binding arbitration.
“Congress entrusted to the FCC the responsibility to protect the public and gave it ample authority under the Communications Act to carry out that obligation,” says the letter signed by Mediacom CEO Rocco Commisso. “By denying Mediacom’s request for interim carriage, the Bureau has failed to carry out this fundamental, Congressionally-mandated duty.”
In its letter, Mediacom contends that Sinclair has behaved in an “unreasonable, unfair and unlawful” manner. In fact, it claims, Sinclair couldn’t negotiate last week because CEO David Smith was goose hunting.
In particular, Mediacom charged that Sinclair:
- Rejected Mediacom’s offer to pay prices that Sinclair charges comparable cable operators.
- Rejected amounts consistent with what Mediacom pays the 475 stations with which it has successfully negotiated retransmission consent.
- Rejected Mediacom’s offer to pay the amount ultimately agreed to by Sinclair and Time Warner in their current negotiations.
- Refused Refuse to agree to allow interim carriage while the parties continue to negotiate, even though Mediacom has offered to pay Sinclair cash consideration and even though, just yesterday, Sinclair granted Time Warner the second of two such extensions in the last two weeks.
- Raised repeatedly its price demands even as Mediacom attempted to close the gap between the parties and reneged on commitments made during negotiations.
- Participated in an anticompetitive arrangement with DIRECTV, Mediacom’s largest competitor, aimed at inducing (through cash payments) Mediacom’s customers to cancel their service and switch to DIRECTV (even though such service may be ultimately more costly to the customer).
- Misrepresented Mediacom’s financial condition to the investment community in an attempt to coerce Mediacom to give in to Sinclair’s unreasonable demands
- Refused to accept Mediacom’s repeated offers to resolve this dispute through binding arbitration.
- Made repeatedly take-it-or-leave-it demands and refused to make themselves available for discussions.