Comcast to FCC: Nexstar is Violating Ownership Cap

Comcast headquarters
(Image credit: Comcast)

Comcast has asked the FCC to rule that Nexstar has control of WPIX(TV) New York and, as a result, is in violation of the commission's 39% cap on a station group's national reach.

Comcast and Nexstar are currently in a retrans battle over station carriage.

In a petition for a declaratory ruling, Comcast said that under either a "de facto" control standard of a more general "influence" standard, Nexstar is calling the retrans, and other, shots, including "actual control" over financing, programming policies and personnel, and total control over retrans rights.

Nexstar was required to divest WPIX as part of its purchase of Tribune's stations. It was part of an eight-station spin-off to Scripps to keep the deal under the 39% cap. WPIX was subsequently sold to Mission Broadcasting, with which Comcast has a retrans agreements.

Comcast said the WPIX spin-off was a "sham" and the FCC must act to rectify that.

It alleges that Nexstar has "asserted retransmission consent and other broad rights over WPIX, contrary to Nexstar’s express representations to the Commission during the Nexstar-Tribune transaction that it would...not provide any services for the station post-transaction."

Comcast said that Nexstar is trying to dramatically increase retrans fees for the station.

It pointed out that Nexstar had retained an option to repurchase the station, which Nexstar transferred to Mission after it became clear the FCC was not going to raise the cap beyond 39%, then struck a local marketing agreement with Mission.

"Nexstar has, as a practical matter, pulled a “bait-and-switch” with the Commission and the public through its post-transaction interactions with WPIX," Comcast told the commission.

A Nexstar spokesperson declined comment on Comcast's petition.

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.