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Senate Commerce Co-Chairs Urge Arbitration

The co-chairmen of the Senate Commerce Committee say they believe the FCC has the power to force Mediacom and Sinclair into binding arbitration over a carriage impasse that saw TV station signals pulled from some 700,000 subs Jan. 6.

Mediacom had asked for congressional input on the point after the FCC's Media Bureau said that absent a finding of bad-faith negotiations, it could not step in. Mediacom sent letters to legislators citing a colloquy on the Senate floor in 1992 between then--and now--involving Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawai).

"The FCC does have the authority to require arbitration," Inouye said at the time, and reiterated it in a letter to Martin co-signed by co-chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

Saying they would bring up the issue at the Thursday FCC oversight hearing, Inouye and Stevens "strongly urge[d]" the FCC to step in, at least to require carriage of the stations on Mediacom while the two sides are awaiting a commission appeal of the Media Bureau's denial of Mediacom's complaint that Sinclair was bargaining in bad faith.

"We] urge yoiu and your colleagues to take immediate action to resolves this dispute which could include binding arbitration," they told Martin.