Buckeye Amends FCC Complaint Against Sinclair

Buckeye CableSystem has amended its FCC retrans complaints against Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG) and asked for immediate action to force the broadcaster to the bargaining table.

That came after Sinclair issued a release saying it was done bargaining and viewers should look for other options like DirecTV, Dish or AT&T's U-verse to get programming from Sinclair's WNWO-TV Toledo, Ohio.

WNWO has been off Buckeye's Toledo system for a couple of months after the two could not strike a retrans deal.

Buckeye says it is asking twice as much as stations with more viewers are getting, while Sinclair says terms are "fair and customary" based on the market and hundreds of other deals it has done.

In its release, Sinclair announced an "end to the negotiations" and outlined what Buckeye subs would be missing.

"While we are aware that thousands of former Buckeye subscribers have already switched video providers, we thought it was important to make this announcement so that their remaining subscribers were aware that WNWO and its great programming will not be coming back to Buckeye," Sinclair said. "This programming includes not only several hours a day of live, local news and popular syndicated programming like Judge Judy and Dr. Oz, but also top-notch NBC network programming, including the remainder of the Winter Olympics, and other highly-watched shows, many of which will begin airing new episodes next week.”

"The press release shows SBG’s contempt for Congress’s retransmission consent negotiating regime and is a direct challenge to the FCC’s good faith bargaining rules," Buckeye alleged. "It is obvious that SBG is retaliating against Buckeye for availing itself of those rules by filing the complaint. To maintain the integrity of the retransmission consent system, the FCC must respond to SBG’s open defiance of the rules."

A Sinclair spokesperson said the company plans to file a response to the amended complaint later today. According to a source familiar with the filing, look for Sinclair to make the points that 1) it put out the press release before it knew of the complaint, so it could not be retaliatory; 2) it put out the press release based in part on past input from the FCC that the public should be informed of the status of carriage so they can decide how to proceed with viewing options, and 3) because Sinclair had decided the talks had ended because it was Sinclair that had not gotten a response from Buckeye to its last two offers.

John Eggerton

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.