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Exclusive: ACA To Take Aim at FCC After Sinclair/Mediacom Retrans Deal

Look for the American Cable Association to take aim at the FCC and broadcasters in the wake of Friday's retransmission consent deal between Sinclair and cable operator Mediacom.

Matthew Polka, President of ACA, which represents smaller and mid-sized cable operators, told B&C the group was preparing to issue a statement expressing its displeasure with the FCC and calling for Congressional action on retransmission consent.

"FCC has completely abdicated its public authority to regulate retransmission consent for the benefit of consumers," Polka said, arguing that the deal was a case not of the marketplace working, but of Sinclair leveraging "every benefit of federal rules to the detriment of consumers."

The FCC concluded that Sinclair had not bargained in bad faith and that it did not have the power to force the broadcaster to restore stations it had pulled from Mediacom Jan. 6. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin encouraged arbitration, but backed up the Media Bureau's decision that it could not intervene, even though a couple of powerful Congressmen suggested it could.

He said that the retransmission consent process unfairly disadvantages his member companies, but more importantly the subscribers to those companies, because they wind up paying more than the subs of big cable companies like Time Warner, with which Sinclair struck a deal just before Mediacom, but without pulling any stations from its systems to get the deal done.

Polka suggested that there appeared to be "no amount of behavior on broadcasters part that amounts to bad faith," adding, "That process is not usable."

Saying the Sinclair/Mediacom deal solved nothing, Polka added that there are "millions of other consumers who stand to be harmed," citing the hundreds of millions CBS's Les Moonves says he expects to get for his stations in the next round of retransmission consent negotiations over the next couple of years.
The National Association of Broadcasters declined comment and Sinclair had not returned a call at press time.