Mediacom Turns to Congress

Mediacom chairman and CEO Rocco B. Commisso is taking his beef with Sinclair Broadcast Group to Washington, D.C.

Commisso sent a letter to members of Congress who represent Mediacom’s employees and customers in 23 states, addressing the Federal Communications Commission’s Media Bureau’s announcement that it would not order Sinclair to restore its broadcast stations’ signals to 2 million viewers in 700,000 of the operator’s households while the full commission considers Mediacom’s claim that Sinclair unlawfully failed to negotiate with Mediacom in good faith.

The letter accused Sinclair of:

• Singling out Mediacom and its customers for discriminatory treatment, rejecting Mediacom’s multiple offers to pay prices based on what Sinclair charges comparable cable operators and rejecting consideration consistent with what Mediacom pays the 475 stations with which it has successfully negotiated retransmission consent;

• Repeatedly raising its price demands even as Mediacom attempted to close the gap between the parties and reneging on commitments made during negotiations;

• Participating in an anticompetitive arrangement with direct-broadcast satellite provider and Mediacom competitor DirecTV to induce, through cash payments, Mediacom’s customers to cancel their service and switch to DirecTV;

• Misrepresenting Mediacom’s financial condition to the investment community in an attempt to coerce the MSO to give in to Sinclair’s demands;

• Repeatedly rejecting Mediacom’s requests that this dispute be resolved by binding arbitration before an independent, impartial arbitrator with no prior stake in the dispute; and

• Refusing to agree to allow interim carriage as the parties continue to negotiate, even though Mediacom offered to pay cash during the interim period. The letter noted that Sinclair granted Time Warner Cable the second of two extensions Friday preventing a shutoff of Sinclair stations on Time Warner systems.

Commisso’s letter calls on senators and congressmen to urge FCC chairman, Kevin Martin and the other commissioners to secure, at the very least, interim carriage of the Sinclair stations on its systems, as well as seeking congressional investigations and hearings regarding retransmission-consent abuses and the FCC’s handling of the Sinclair-Mediacom dispute.