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Mediacom Exec Asks McCaskill To Widen Bill Data Net

The battle between cable operators and broadcasters over retrans reform rages on.

The latest volley came from Tom Larsen, group VP of cable operator Mediacom, who has written Sen. Claire McCaskill (pictured) (D-Mo.) suggesting that as part of her inquiry into pay-TV bills, she should ask Missouri broadcasters to disclose the rates they charge MVPDs for carriage of their stations.

That way, he says, she can better determine how much of a cable or satellite bill goes to those station owners, the rate at which that payment is rising, how much or little of that is being reinvested locally and more.

McCaskill, chair of the Consumer Protection Subcommittee, is asking consumers with beefs about their pay-TV bills to weigh in via a new "submit the scam" web tool on her senate web site, saying that is part of an effort to "lay the groundwork" for legislation. Broadcasters battling cable operators over retrans reforms, have been celebrating the effort and offering to help.

McCaskill announced the effort under the headline "Frustrated with your Cable or Satellite Bill? McCaskill Wants to Hear from You," and with the assertion that cable companies are "the worst" when it comes to customer satisfaction, citing this story about the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Larsen suggests that Missouri broadcaster inquiry will provide better data than that being promoted by broadcast interests.

"I believe those numbers will speak for themselves and your office will be [in] a much better position to determine which companies are actually treating Missouri consumers fairly," he tells McCaskill.

“There is a profound reason why Congress is examining the deceptive billing practices of cable and satellite TV providers and it’s a glaring issue that must be addressed to help bring economic relief to the budgets of families across America who subscribe to pay-TV service,” said Robert C. Kenny, spokesman for the broadcaster-backed TVfreedom,  in reaction to the Mediacom letter.  “Cable and satellite TV providers should be holding themselves accountable for billing errors and more fully examining the negative impact that high equipment rental fees and unnecessary or inflated charges are having on their customers. This is a real market failure that needs to be addressed."