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NAB hits back hard at Mediacom retransmission consent petition

To see how nasty the fight over retransmission consent reform will be, look no further than the war of words between the National Association of Broadcasters and perennial retrans scourge, Mediacom Communications.

The NAB responded in kind Friday to Mediacom’s petition filed last month with the FCC. Calling Mediacom’s petition “silly,” the NAB said it was a plea for “the government’s help to grow its already hefty bottom line.”

As to Mediacom’s suggestion that the FCC should tie broadcast license renewals to a promise by the TV station not to use blackouts during retransmission negotiations, the NAB argued that the proposed rule would violate current communications law.

NAB also argued that there is no evidence of broadcast stations purposely eroding over-the-air signals just to gain leverage in a retrans negotiation.

“Mediacom’s unsubstantiated claim that broadcasters are gaming the retransmission consent system by purposefully limiting the availability of their free signals to their communities is equally illogical. Local broadcast stations’ primary business is selling advertising. Broadcasters, and local advertisers, are strongly motivated to ensure that broadcast signals reach as many eyeballs as possible.In fact, that’s the primary reason 99 percent of retransmission consent agreements are completed without an impasse that results in a signal becoming temporarily unavailable via an MVPD. It is also the reason, as detailed in the previous section, why broadcasters have made substantial efforts to ensure the strength and reach of their [over-the-air] signals,” NAB wrote.

In a final twist of the knife, NAB pointed out that the Consumer Reports ranked Mediacom dead last for customer satisfaction among all cable providers, “a group that ranks lower than the airlines,” NAB wrote.

The scrum over the Mediacom petition is probably a side-show to the notice of proposed rule making Wheeler put into motion this week that would review the FCC’s “good faith” test for retransmission consent negotiations.

But that doesn’t mean the petition won’t raise the debate volume over the entire regime that broadcasters and pay TV providers have been squabbling over for at least a decade.

Mediacom Communications is known for its in-your-face letters and petitions at the Federal Communications Commission. Accompanying the petition his company filed,  Mediacom CEO Rocco Commisso accused chairman Tom Wheeler of ignoring all of Mediacom’s suggestions and getting his priorities backward, by taking on net neutrality instead of retransmission consent reform.