Mediacom: Sinclair Says Pull Plug

Cable company Mediacom said Friday that Sinclair Broadcast Group had instructed it to pull its stations--22 of them--from its channel lineup.

The FCC had denied a Mediacom complaint that Sinclair had not bargained in good faith, and Sinclair had told the company it would have to pull the signals Jan. 5. The FCC also had asked the companies to submit to binding arbitration and for Sinclair to keep the stations on the cable system during that process. Sinclair had said it would consider the advice.

The two have been unable to come to terms for cash payments to Sinclair for carriage of its mix of network affiliated and independent stations. Sinclair says it should be paid a carriage fee comparable to that for cable networks that are similarly rated to its stations.

“We are certainly dismayed with Sinclair’s inability to commit to our offer of binding arbitration made yesterday, a solution that was strongly encouraged in the recent Order by the FCC’s Media Bureau,” said Mediacom Executive VP John Pascarelli.

In the interim, Mediacom will put alternate programming on the vacant channels, including other cable networks, local programming and even other TV stations where markets overlap.

Mediacom has also handed out over-the-air antennas to customers. The NFL playoffs begin Jam.6, and the college championship game is next week.

Sinclair has aired on-screen crawls warning cable viewers they might lose access to the station, and encouraged them to seek alternatives, especially DirecTV, with which Sinclair has a standing agreement to get money for each new sub it refers.

Sinclair is in another retrans dust-up with Comcast, with another couple dozen stations slates to be pulled in early March if the two sides can't agree on a price.

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.