In the latest round of the never-ending debate over retransmission consent reform, broadcasters are pointing the finger at a few “bad actors” for causing the bulk of local blackouts.
Singling out recent disputes involving Dish, Mediacom Communications and DirecTV, the National Association of Broadcasters, in a meeting last week with GOP commissioner Ajit Pai’s office, suggested the Federal Communications Commission should apply a “bad actor factor” when the commission considers a good faith complaint.
The rhetorical jabs between broadcasters and cable operators have escalated since the FCC opened up a Congressionally-mandated rule making to review the “totality of circumstances” used to determine if both sides are acting in good faith.
Just a month ago, the NAB warned the FCC that cable would “manufacture a crisis” to get an edge in the current review.
“Since we filed that warning , there have been several impasses or near impasses involving the usual cast of characters – mostly notably DISH, DirecTV, and Mediacom,” wrote the NAB’s Rick Kaplan in an ex parte filed with the FCC Tuesday.
Manufactured or not, a number of retransmission disputes have made headlines in recent weeks, most notably between Dish and Sinclair Broadcast Group. After filing a good faith complaint with the FCC just as the contract deadline approached, the two parties agreed to an extension, averting what could have been the largest blackout in retransmission history.
Small cable operators have also been upping their game at the FCC. Mediacom Communications has filed a number of letters and petitions at the FCC. Most recently, Mediacom, along with several other smaller cable operators and groups, proposed the FCC compel broadcasters offer proof of market prices by revealing the fees they charge to other distributors in the market.
“These runaway increases are attributable in large part to the fact that the good faith negotiating requirement, as currently implemented, imposes no obligation on a broadcasters to explain, justify, or substantiate that its price demands relflect competitive marketplace considerations,” wrote Mediacom, four other smaller operators, the ITTA-The Voice of Mid-Size Communications Companies, the NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, and Public Knowledge,
The NAB lashed back at the Mediacom-led proposal broadcasters calling it “ridiculous.”
“The FCC should ignore this disingenuous suggestion from a company famous for its last place customer service record. Instead, the commission should focus on the real reasons for rising pay TV rates: bait-and-switch billing, outrageous early termination fees, and outlandish DVR and set-top box fees,” said Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of communications for the National Association of Broadcasters.