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Mediacom and Media General settle retransmission dispute

Media General settled its retransmission consent standoff with Mediacom Communications late Wednesday. The new retransmission consent agreement returned Media General stations to Mediacom cable systems in 14 markets after a two-week blackout.

The dispute between the two companies was particularly acrimonious and played out as the debate over retransmission consent reform begins to heat up in Washington.

“We are pleased that Mediacom recognized the essential value of our top-rated programming, including local news, weather, sports, entertainment, and other unique content. We have successfully negotiated agreements with hundreds of pay-TV providers over the past year at market rates. We regret the temporary disruption in service and sincerely appreciate all the support we received from our viewers and advertisers,” Media General said in a statement.

Mediacom’s outspoken CEO Rocco Commisso, who has written numerous letters to the FCC during the agency to make changes to the retransmission consent regime, charged Media General with using nasty tactics to wring “double the money” out of Mediacom, by pulling its stations right before the MLB All-Star game on Fox, blacking out the game on three stations in Norfolk, Va.; Topeka, Kans., and Terre Haute, Ind.

“Media General and its predecessor companies…are known for their cutthroat practices and anti-consumer behavior,” Mediacom wrote Wednesday in a letter to its customers. “Since 2008, they have blacked out their stations over 75 times.”

Media General shot back that Mediacom had no intention of reaching a deal before the contract expired. “Instead of looking out for the best interest of their subscribers, they have created this dispute to draw more attention to their legislative agenda,” said Richard Levine, head of distribution for Media General.

Mediacom Communications filed petition  recently calling for the FCC to prohibit TV stations from blocking online programming during negotiations. The FCC took up the complaint and set an August 14 deadline for comments, near the time the FCC is expected to open up a Congressionally-mandated proceeding to review what negotiating in “good faith” means.