Comcast/Allbritton Spar Over CoverageFight shows contentiousness of content negotiations 9/06/2010 01:54:00 AM Eastern
Allbritton continues to press its case
at the FCC for conditions on the Comcast/
NBCU merger, a move Comcast has
labeled a “misuse” of the transaction
process to extract concessions in advance
of carriage negotiations. The fight
illustrates the growing contentiousness
of negotiations between broadcasting
and cable over content.
According to an FCC filing, Allbritton
President Fred Ryan and SVP Jerald Fritz
met with a top advisor to Democratic Commissioner
Mignon Clyburn to argue that the
deal should not be approved without conditions
protecting Allbritton’s NewsChannel
8 in Washington and other channels that
compete with NBCU-owned stations.
Allbritton says that while Comcast has
agreed to negotiate for renewed carriage
of NewsChannel 8, its insistence on tying
that to retrans consent for Allbritton stations
in other markets devalues the news
channel—which Allbritton further argues
is Comcast’s intent.
In comments to the FCC, Allbritton said it
opposed the merger without those conditions
and argued for either forced divestitures
of stations or cable systems in key
markets or unbundling carriage negotiations
for local/regional cable channels—like
NewsChannel 8—from retrans talks.
Comcast counters that Allbritton is refusing
to engage in reasonable negotiations
and has “concocted” a theory of harm.
Besides, adds Comcast, Allbritton did
not raise the issue in initial comments,
as the FCC required all parties to do. In
fact, the commission expressly stated
that, “new issues may not be raised in
responses or replies.”