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Broadcasters File New Round of Retrans Complaints Against Ops

In the latest in a flurry of filings this week, ComCorp and Granite Broadcasting have lodged complaints with federal regulators alleging that cable operators in Mississippi and Minnesota have violated the so-called “good-faith” negotiating requirements for retransmission-consent deals.

The complaints were filed with the Federal Communications Commission against Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative and Trust Cable TV, who earlier this year had filed similar complaints against Granite and ComCorp, respectively.

In their FCC complaint Thursday Granite and Malara Broadcast Group alleged that Paul Bunyan "failed to negotiate the terms of a retransmission consent agreement in good faith; filed a baseless complaint that imposed substantial and unnecessary costs on the licensees; and abused the commission's process by participating in a scheme to achieve its own policy goals."

The retransmission-consent talks in question involve Granite’s KRII-TV in Chisholm, Minn., and KBJR-TV in Superior, Wis., as well as Malara’s KDLH-TV in Duluth, Minn.

On Wednesday, ComCorp’s WGMB-TV and WVLA-TV of Baton Rouge, La., filed an  FCC complaint that charges that Trust Cable TV, which owns cable systems in Louisiana and Mississippi, “deliberately and brazenly ambushed" the stations by filing "an utterly frivolous and wasteful FCC complaint" that is "rife with falsehoods and half-truths."

The Baton Rouge TV stations' denied Trust Cable’s allegation that the TV stations, through consultant Duane Lammers, issued a "take-it-or-leave-it" retransmission consent offer during Hurricane Gustav.

"Trust Cable's request for a stay to prevent its cable system from losing signals 'during the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav' also is grossly misleading because the parties' existing retransmission consent agreements entitle Trust Cable to carry the stations' signals until Dec. 31, 2008," WGMB and WVLA charged in their complaint.

The stations' offer was made by Lammers "more than two weeks before Hurricane Gustav made landfall," the stations wrote. "Other cable operators affected by the recent hurricanes had found it possible to respond to Mr. Lammers, even if only to notify him that they needed additional time to consider an offer."

Earlier this week, ComCorp filed an FCC complaint—also alleging failure to negotiate in good faith during retransmission-consent talks—against Baja Broadband.

That New Mexico cable operator also has an FCC complaint pending against ComCorp, on the same allegation.

ComCorp also charges that Baja is carrying its station, KTSM-TV of El Paso, Texas, without proper consent. The cable operator claims it is carrying the station legally.

In its complaint against Baja earlier this week, ComCorp alleged that the cable operators  had conspired with the American Cable Association, a lobbying group for independent cable companies, to bring “specious” retransmission-consent related complaints against broadcasters to the FCC.

The ACA and Baja denied those “conspiracy” allegations.

Granite and ComCorp are owned by Silver Point Capital, a hedge fund.