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Sinclair Settles With TWC

Sinclair Broadcast Group finally cut a retransmission-consent deal with one cable operator, Time Warner Cable, but its fierce dispute with Mediacom Communications continued to drag on last week.

Time Warner closed a new agreement with Sinclair Jan. 19 that includes the carriage of the analog and digital signals of 35 TV stations owned or operated by the broadcaster in 22 markets, reaching about 6 million Time Warner subscribers.

Originally, Time Warner said it was negotiating with Sinclair just regarding carriage of TV stations to about 1 million former Adelphia subscribers, which the nation's second-largest cable company acquired last year.

The new, all-encompassing retransmission-consent deal expires Dec. 31, 2009, according to Sinclair. And the pact marks the first time Time Warner has agreed to carry Sinclair's digital signals to most of its customers, according to the TV-station owner.

The agreement, whose financial terms weren't disclosed, covers Sinclair's HDTV signals as they become available, Time Warner director of communications Maureen Huff said. And the agreement also provides for the carriage of Sinclair's MyNetwork TV affiliates in Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, both of which are transmitted as digital multicast stations, according to Sinclair.

But Sinclair remains in a bitter retransmission-consent dispute with Mediacom, after pulling the signals for 22 of its stations from that medium-sized cable operator Jan. 6, affecting 700,000 subscribers.

And Comcast, the nation's biggest cable company, is also in retransmission-consent talks with Sinclair. The broadcaster may lose carriage on Comcast systems reaching 3 million subscribers on March 1, if both parties haven't reached a new deal.

Last week, Mediacom took its case to the Iowa General Assembly's Joint Government Oversight Committee. Both Mediacom chairman Rocco Commisso and vice president Ed Pardini pleaded their case before that body, talking about the $400 million investment their company has made in its Iowa cluster, its largest.

Some Iowa legislators were critical of Sinclair for pulling its signals from Mediacom, but the broadcaster's general counsel, Barry Faber, argued that consumers can either get those stations over the air or by switching to satellite.

At least one legislator, state Rep. Ralph Watts (R-Adel), agreed with Sinclair that the dispute was a “private contract issue,” according to the Associated Press.

The Federal Communications Commission has said it can't require arbitration in the battle, which Mediacom disputes. Sinclair has rejected Mediacom's repeated requests for binding arbitration.