Sinclair, Mediacom Execs Testify on Retrans Battle

Executives from Sinclair and Mediacom were in Iowa Tuesday testifying before the state Senate there on their ongoing retrans battle.

Sinclair pulled its signals from a number of Mediacom cable systems Jan. 5 after the two sides could not agree on the price Mediacom would pay for carriage. That included from systems in Des Moines (the Fox affiliate) and Cedar Rapids (CBS), Iowa, affecting about 250,000 subs and big-ticket shows including American Idol and, if there is no deal by then, the Super Bowl.

Mediacom Chairman Rocco Commisso and Sinclair President David Smith were both said to have made their case to the Iowa Senate, which is apparently hearing it from viewers/constituents, particularly after last weekend's CBS broadcast of the Colts/Patriots game, one of the most exciting conference championships ever.

Sinclair says it is a simple case of price vs. value. It argues Mediacom is not willing to pay what its stations are worth to them. Mediacom says Sinclair is not dealing in good faith, with the viewers the ultimate losers.

Mediacom VP of Legal Affairs Tom Larsen says the company has yet to hear back from the FCC on its petition for emergency relief. The company filed a complaint with the FCC against Sinclair for bargaining in bad faith. The FCC's Media Bureau rejected the complaint, which Mediacom appealed to the full commission. But Mediacom has also asked the commission to reinstate the affected stations while it considers the appeal.

Larsen said Mediacom wanted to hear back from the commission "immediately, and certainly before the Super Bowl."

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.