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Broadcasters File Retrans Complaint Against DirecTV

A group of broadcasters have filed an emergency petition with the FCC charging DirecTV with failure to negotiate retransmission consent in good faith and wants the FCC to compel DirecTV to back up its price claim.

The complaint was filed by Northwest Broadcasting, Broadcasting Licenses, Mountain Licenses, Stainless Broadcasting, Eagle Creek Broadcasting of Laredo, Bristlecone Broadcasting, and Blackhawk Broadcasting, saying they had come to an impasse over "unbridgeable" and apparently unbudgeable, "positions on price."

The station groups say they have market data to support their price claims which it has shown to DirecTV, while DirecTV has refused to show them its "facts" for the price it is asking.

The groups point out that the FCC can, if it chooses, compel "reciprocal fact disclosure" if it finds DirecTV was not negotiating in good faith, or "stonewalling," as the groups argue.

They say it is an emergency because they have been negotiating new retrans deals since fall 2014, and that their expired contracts are on "life support" through multiple short-term extensions.

The FCC is currently in the process of reconsidering its definition of good faith bargaining per a congressional directive, but that is still in the early stages.

But the broadcasters say DirecTV is in violation of the current definition, which requires that “both parties to the negotiation refrain from insisting on terms that are not consistent with competitive marketplace considerations." They also argue that not supplying the evidence of their pricing unreasonably delays the deal, which is also a violation.

"The TV Station Group [their collective moniker for petition purposes] has agreed to the most recent extension of that agreement in a good faith effort to avoid harming innocent consumers who want to continue to receive the programming provided by The TV Station Group on DIRECTV. Under these circumstances, Commission action on this Complaint at the earliest possible time is both needed, and respectfully requested."

They argue that the "unbridgeable chasm" between their prices needs bridging by the FCC.

"DirecTV continues to work in good faith with Northwest Broadcasting and looks forward to reaching an agreement," said a spokesperson.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.