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Lawyer Calls ACA Retrans Conspiracy Complaints ‘Stink Bombs’

The American Cable Association shot back at several TV-station owners and the National Association of Broadcasters Friday, over allegations this week that accused the cable lobbying group of conspiring to prompt small cable systems to file frivolous complaints with federal regulators.

The ACA, a lobbying group for independent cable companies, and the Chicago law firm Cinnamon Mueller offered detailed responses to three complaints filed at the Federal Communications Commission against three small operators.

Attorney Chris Cinnamon, who represents those cable companies and is also outside counsel for the ACA, called the complaints “stink bombs.” He also called allegations of a conspiracy “utterly bizarre and baseless,” saying that the FCC “should sanction the parties and their counsel for submitting such falsehoods on the record.”

The complaints, which also allege bad-faith negotiating, were filed by ComCorp and Granite Broadcasting against Baja Broadband of New Mexico, Trust Cable TV of Mississippi and Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative in Minnesota. The operators have their own FCC complaints pending against the broadcasters, alleging the stations are not negotiating retransmission-consent deals in good faith.

The complaints filed by ComCorp and Granite allege that the trio of cable operators and ACA were “abusing the FCC complaint process to gain political advantage during this heightened period of retransmission-consent negotiations,” by filing “specious” complaints against broadcasters regarding retransmission consent.

“My overriding reaction to the complaints is deep sympathy for the [FCC] Media Bureau lawyers that will have to read that garbage,” Cinnamon said. “The complaints are utterly without merit and, at one level, are merely stink bombs launched by these broadcasters in futile attempts to distract from their conduct in dealing with these small operators.”

He added, “The FCC’s lawyers are smart and will see through all this.”

ACA president Matt Polka denied flat-out any conspiracy.  

“These counterclaims filed by the broadcasters and being spread around by the NAB are nothing more than an attempt to distract the FCC from the real issue, which is the much-needed and long overdue reform of retransmission consent rules and regulations,” he said.

The broadcasters had attacked the ACA for putting out press releases after the small cable systems filed their FCC complaints. And Polka and Cinnamon, in turn, criticized the NAB for issuing press releases about the ComCorp and Granite filings.

“Tellingly, we learned about the complaints only from NAB’s press release, further evidence that this is a high-level strategic game by segments of the broadcast industry attempting to deflect scrutiny from bad actors,” Cinnamon said. “The many conscientious and responsible broadcasters in the industry should be ashamed of NAB and the broadcasters involved.” 

In response to Cinnamon’s comments, NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said, “This is too silly to warrant a comment.”

 The attorney for ComCorp and Granite, Kevin Latek, declined to comment.