TDS Telecom subs in Indiana and Tennessee lost access to Nexstar stations in Indiana, Oregon, New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee, Colorado, Utah and Nevada on Jan. 1 over what TDS CEO Jim Butman said was an unreasonable demand for an "up to 129%" retransmission consent rate increase.
The Nexstar stations countered that the proposed increases were reasonable. “We have been negotiating tirelessly and in good faith to establish a mutually agreeable contract with TDS, proposing fair and reasonable terms,” the stations said on their websites.
In a letter to FCC chair Ajit Pai, TDS invoked the "massive consolidation" of Nexstar and Tribune—Nexstar bid for the Tribune stations after Sinclair bowed out—TDS said that Nexstar's terms would drive "already unsustainable programming fees even higher."
The letter was not a formal complaint against Nexstar for failure to negotiate in good faith. The FCC is empowered to enforce good faith retrans negotiations, but declined under previous chairman Tom Wheeler to make blackouts de facto bad faith.
But Butman made it clear he thought the FCC needed to make sure Nexstar was "negotiating toward reasonable terms," and in the video he called on subscribers to go to the FCC website and file a complaint. The FCC won't be acting on any complaints until the government shutdown is over, however. "We need the FCC commissioners to know how industry trends are impacting real people like you every day."
Butman told them that if Nexstar got its 129% increase, that cost would have to be passed along to them.
Among the things Butman complained to the FCC about was Nexstar asserting the after-acquired clauses in their station contracts to raise the retrans fees of Tribune stations to higher fees charged by Nexstar.
Jon Lafayette contributed to this report.
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