Wheeler Calls Emergency Meeting With Sinclair, Dish

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has called an emergency meeting of the FCC Media Bureau with representatives of Dish and Sinclair to "get to the bottom of the dispute" between the two.

Just south of 130 TV stations went dark on Dish Tuesday (Aug. 25) after the two failed to come to an agreement, and after they had extended the carriage temporarily.

“Today, I have directed the Media Bureau to convene an emergency meeting with DISH and Sinclair to get to the bottom of the dispute and bring back local programming to consumers," Wheeler said. "The parties will have until midnight to file their views."

Dish last night asked for an emergency order for injunctive relief saying Sinclair had violated good faith negotiating requirements.

"The public interest is the Commission's responsibility," continued Wheeler. "We will not stand idly by while millions of consumers in 79 markets across the country are being denied access to local programming. The Commission will always act within the scope of its authority if it emerges that improper conduct is preventing a commercial resolution of the dispute."

Actually, the programming is still available in those markets, but viewers would need to get it off the air, rather than off the bird, a point Sinclair has made, as well as to point out it is on other MVPDs and Dish customers could vote with their feet by switching providers.

"Just last year, Congress instructed the Commission to look closely at whether retransmission consent negotiations are being conducted in good faith," said Wheeler. "That’s why I have proposed to my fellow Commissioners a new rulemaking to determine how best to protect the public interest. The facts surrounding this dispute inform our findings in that proceeding, but we will not wait to act on behalf of consumers.”

Wheeler has also proposed to eliminate broadcast exclusivity rules that prevent cable operators from importing out of market network and syndicated when they can't strike deals with in-market stations with that programming.

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.