Block Asks FCC For 'Heightened' Good Faith Bargaining Test

Petitions for guidance that would factor in market-specific criteria
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Block Communications, which owns both TV stations and Buckeye CableSystem, has petitioned the FCC to interpret its statutory retrans good faith bargaining authority to include requiring market-specific fact tests for bargaining "parity" among operators and stations in small and mid-sized markets.

That would include requiring more "objective" criteria on what offers "reasonably reflect" the market position of the TV station or cable operator. That would mean the FCC would become more active in judging negotiations, something the FCC has been reluctant to do.

Block says that cable customers in small and midsized markets are being harmed by current retrans practices, particularly by tv station "supergroups" using their "scope and scale to extract massive fee increases from small and mid-sized cable operators."

Block is currently in the midst of a retrans impasse with one of the nation's largest TV station groups, Sinclair, including filing a complaint with the FCC in February saying the broadcasters were not negotiating in good faith.

Sinclair's NBC affiliate WNWO-TV has been off Buckeye's Toledo system for four months, with Block saying it is due to the "exorbitant demands and bad faith bargaining tactics" of the broadcaster. Sinclair has called those charges baseless.