Retrans: Same War, Different Front

Sinclair, Time Warner Cable square off in latest round of comments on FCC’s review of media ownership rules

There has been no FCC movement on the yearold
retransmission consent proposal, but that hasn’t
stopped the fight between cable operators and broadcasters
from playing out on other stages, including the
online political file and media ownership review.

Sinclair and Time Warner Cable, for example, squared
off in the latest round of comments on the FCC’s review
of media ownership rules. The issue is joint retrans
negotiations, which cable operators are tying to joint
operating agreements, as well as stations with multiple
affiliations courtesy of their digital subchannels.

Sinclair says Time Warner Cable is only out to try
to stifle competition and tabs the company as the
real 800-pound gorilla in the deal. “Few broadcasters
can withstand the pressures from cable giants who
will ‘remove’ stations from their lineups without price
‘capitulation,’” Sinclair said in its filing.

Time Warner Cable fired back that Sinclair and
other broadcasters are being disingenuous. The cable
operator said broadcasters are looking to “aggregate
market power that can be exploited through the retransmission
consent process.” TWC also accused the
Big Four networks of “reshuffling” affiliations where
their incumbent stations refuse to give over a greater
percentage of retrans fees to the network.

While each accuses the other of throwing out red
herrings for the FCC to follow, the question remains
whether the FCC will bite on either argument. So far, the
agency does not appear eager to get into the battle.