FCC Media Bureau Chief: Sinclair Extension Gives Viewers Chance To Seek Alternative

Media Bureau chief Bill Lake says that the eight-day extension of Mediacom's carriage of Sinclair TV stations gives viewers the chance to look for alternatives to for their broadcast signals if a deal can't be done by then.

That is according to his statement in response to the company's New Years Eve announcement of a carriage extension until Jan. 8 as they continue to try to negotiate a retransmission consent deal.

Lake said that, in addition to giving the parties a chance to strike a deal, which he said was the FCC's "sincere hope," it would have the "benefit" of giving consumers "an additional period during which they can take steps, if desired, to obtain access to Sinclair's stations through other means in the event that Sinclair and Mediacom are unable to conclude a new agreement by Jan. 8."

Those would include over-the-air reception, which is unaffected, or switching to satellite.

Lake called the FCC's role in retrans disputes "circumscribed" -- FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said the commission did not plan to step in if Sinclair pulls its signals Jan. 8, so long as the bargaining is in "good faith." But Lake also said the FCC had played a role in prompting the deal. "We were pleased to help to facilitate the parties' concurrence in this extension," he said.

That included daily contact with the negotiating entities, according to FCC spokeswoman. The office of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) also said it was in close contact with the parties throughout the process as the senator pushed for a deal or an extension, even calling on the FCC to step in if necessary to preserve access to college bowl games.

A Mediacom source said the parties essentially took the weekend off, but were expected to be back at it today (Jan. 4).

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.