Mediacom Says Cable Ops Should Be Able to Jointly Negotiate Retrans

Since broadcasters are allowed to negotiate collectively in retrans deals, smaller cable operators want to be able to do the same.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Mediacom Chairman Rocco Commisso says that if the FCC really wants to "address the imbalance in negotiating power between stations groups and smaller cable operators," as the chairman suggested when addressing the American Cable Association, he has just the ticket.

Commisso said the FCC could either limit the participation of networks in retrans negotiations, or, alternately, level the playing field by allowing smaller operators to designate larger ones to negotiate on their behalf, and not allow stations to refuse to negotiate with that designee.

Commisso took issue with Genachowski's suggestion to ACA that there were less retrans dispute, a sign that both sides were coming to the table--a cable source said that the chairman has indicated in conversations that he believed the FCC's opening of the retransmission consent rulemaking -- which has yet to be acted on -- has helped get both sides to do more deals without consumer-unfriendly blackouts.

"If only that were true," said Commisso. He said there had been 20 DMA's affected by service disruptions since the beginning of the year, and that did not count the "hundreds" of situations in which cable operators caved and paid "exorbitant" price increases rather than deny programming to their customers. "Millions of customers who live in smaller communities are being adversely impacted by [retransmission consent] on a daily basis," he said.

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.