Sinclair Fires Back at Mediacom

Sinclair Broadcast Group fired back in its long-standing retransmission-consent battle with Mediacom Communications, holding a press conference Tuesday blasting the cable operator and stating that a resolution to their dispute is not likely to come soon.

The Sinclair press conference came one day after Mediacom held its own conference call regarding its appeal of a Federal Communications Commission ruling last week that found that Sinclair was negotiating with the cable operator in good faith.

On Tuesday, Sinclair general counsel Barry Faber said the TV-station owner was holding the conference call in response to calls it received over the past few days on the matter.

“The parties do not appear to be any closer,” Faber said on the call. “This may continue for a long period of time.”

Faber also cast doubt on Mediacom’s assertion that Iowa state legislators will step in to resolve the dispute. Mediacom and the Iowa Cable & Telecommunications Association asked the Iowa General Assembly to look into the dispute and pass legislation that would prohibit any programmer from “discriminating against Iowans.”

“Mediacom, the company that is predicting that legislators will step in to help them, is the same company that incorrectly predicted that they would receive help from a federal court, which denied their motion for an injunction, and from the FCC, which also denied all of their filings,” Faber said on the call.

In a phone interview, Mediacom chairman and CEO Rocco Commisso said he believes the threat of legislation is worrying Sinclair. He added that Iowans are “very upset” about the dispute.

“I can’t tell you when the solution to this thing will be, because it does take two to tango,” Commisso said. “But I feel better than I did yesterday.”

Faber said Sinclair still intends to respond to Mediacom’s request for binding arbitration to settle the matter, although he did not say when the company will provide that response. But he hinted that such arbitration is unlikely.

“We’re still considering it,” Faber said. “We have reason to believe that even if we were willing to do it, the parameters under which we would be prepared to do it are different than the parameters under which Mediacom would be willing to do it … If you were selling your house, ask yourself if some buyer wanted to offer you less than you were willing to sell it for, and the buyer said ‘Let’s go find an arbitrator,’ would you really be willing to put yourself in a position where some arbitrator could force you to sell your house at a price that you didn’t think was appropriate?”