Mediacom Secures High Ground in Sinclair Battle

Cable operator Mediacom has secured some high ground in its retransmission battle with Sinclair: Capitol Hill. Or, at least,  the portion transplanted from Iowa.

In a letter to both Sinclair President David Smith and Mediacom CEO Rocco Commisso, the state's two Senators and five of its representatives urged them to consider submitting their carriage negotiations to binding arbitration at the FCC.

Citing the "up to 250,000 Iowa consumers who are currently unable to receive signals from KGAN Cedar Rapids and KDSM Des Moines," the legislators said that, "given the current impasse, binding arbitration would seem to present the parties with an alternative mechanism for resolving this dispute," and asked them "to consider the clear guidance of the FCC in agreeing to a process to bring the parties to an agreement without further harming Iowa consumers.

The FCC's Media Bureau, in rejecting a Mediacom complaint that Sinclair was not bargaining in good faith, still strongly encouraged the parties to submit the complaint to the FCC's Media Bureau for binding arbitration, with the stations remaining on Mediacom for the Mediacom has since appealed its complaint to the full commission.

Mediacom says it is ready and willing to go that route. Sinclair said it would consider the proposal seriously, but pulled its signals off the cable systems Jan. 5 but has yet to say whether or not it will. In the meantime, it has encouraged Mediacom subscribers to switch to DirecTV, with which its has a marketing deal that pays Sinclair for sub switches.

Sinclair has also said it is willing to "shake hands and walk away" from what it says is simply a business deal in which the parties cannot come to terms on price.

Signing the letter were Senators Tom Harkin and Charles Grassley and representatives Bruce Braley, Leonard Boswell, Steve King, Dave Loebsack, and Tom Latham.

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.