News Ticker

FCC starts process on Mediacom’s retrans petition

As the retransmission debate in Washington cranks up yet again, the Federal Communications Commission is taking up Mediacom Communications’ petition calling for the FCC to prohibit TV stations from blocking online programming during negotiations.

Comments on Mediacom’s petition are due August 14, near the time the FCC is expected to open up a Congressionally-mandated proceeding to review what negotiating in “good faith” means.

In the petition, Mediacom proposed that station license renewals be conditioned on the station’s agreement that it would not terminate an MVPD’s carriage of its signal during active negotiations if the station’s signal is not accessible over-the-air or on the Internet by at least 90 percent of the homes served by the MVPD.

Mediacom argues that its proposed change is in keeping with the government’s statutory obligation to promote free, over-the-air TV.

Going a step further, the cable company accuses broadcasters of abandoning the free, over-the-air TV model.

“Broadcasters, through their lobbying organizations, pretend that over-the-air service is available to everyone and that they celebrate the growth in the number of viewers relying on off-air reception in place of MVPD service. But this is nothing but propaganda. Given the market dynamics that create incentives for broadcasters to reduce the number of viewers who rely on over-the-air reception and the huge sums of money that retransmission consent fees generate for station owners, economic realities mean that the commitment of station owners to the broadcast model is dying, if not already dead. Les Moonves, CEO of CBS publicly acknowledged this fact when he recently declared, ‘We’re programmers. The term ‘broadcasting’ doesn’t mean anything anymore.'”

On the same day Mediacom Communications filed its petition, CEO Rocco Commisso wrote a scathing letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler on July 7, criticizing the agency for doing nothing to change the retransmission consent regime.

Mediacom is currently in a retransmission standoff with Media General, resulting in a blackout of Media General stations in 14 markets.

Meanwhile, broadcasters fired off a letter to the FCC, warning the commission that pay TV providers would be manufacturing retransmission disputes to convince regulators to make changes to the current retransmission consent regime.