The FCC has denied AMC Networks' (AMCN) request that it keep its networks on AT&T pending the resolution of the programmer's carriage complaint against the distributor.
The FCC's Media Bureau said AMCN had failed to show its interim relief was warranted, but added that denying the stay should not be read as providing any indication of how the FCC would rule on the underlying carriage complaint, though it did urge them to resolve the carriage dispute themselves if possible.
"[W]e recognize the potential impact of this dispute on some of AMCN’s viewers and encourage the parties to work toward a mutually agreeable solution pending the outcome of the complaint proceeding," the FCC's Media Bureau said in a statement.
“We are pleased the FCC correctly denied AMC Networks’ petition for a standstill order," said AT&T in a statement. "We treat all programmers fairly and AMC Networks’ petition and complaint are without merit. We remain willing to work with AMC Networks to provide its content at a reasonable price for our customers.”
Earlier this month AMCN filed the complaint alleging AT&T discriminated against it on the basis of affiliation. But it also filed a petition asking the FCC to order a temporary standstill of the current agreement before it expired.
But the FCC said that AMCN had not shown that it would suffer irreparable harm absent the standstill and, primarily for that reason, it was denying the petition.
The bureau even cracked wise in making its point.
"Unfortunately for AMCN, its irreparable harm argument was breaking bad [a reference to the iconic AMC series] at the outset because AMCN misconstrued the relevant inquiry," the bureau said. "Should we deny AMCN’s request for temporary injunctive relief, the alternative under the status quo would be a temporary service disruption pending resolution of AMCN’s Complaint. To be sure, AMCN could decide instead to accept AT&T’s latest carriage offer. But taking such a step would be AMCN’s choice entirely, and we fail to see how AMCN can base its case for injunctive relief on harms that would flow solely from its own decision to accept AT&T’s offer, harms that it can avoid by not agreeing to that offer."
The bureau said it was not convinced of the urgency of the relief or the immediacy of the alleged harms.
"AMCN’s assertions regarding the popularity of its programming and its broad carriage by MVPDs nationwide suggest that a temporary period of non-carriage on AT&T’s video systems during the pendency of this proceeding is unlikely to significantly and adversely affect its competitive position in the marketplace," the bureau said.
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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.