Mediacom Asks Hill to Push FCC

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With the FCC's Media Bureau telling Mediacom it was not going to order Sinclair Broadcasting to put its TV stations back on the cable operator's systems--they were pulled Jan.5 after the two failed to reach a carriage agreement--Mediacom Chairman Rocco Commisso has written members of Congress in 23 states to ask them to encourage the FCC to mandate interim carriage.

Mediacom says that viewers are being hurt by the blackout, while Sinclair would not be hurt by a temporary restoration.

Mediacom says that Sinclair has renegged on commitments made in negotiations, engaged in an anticompetitive practice by driving its subs to satellite operator DirecTV, misrepresented Mediacom's financial position, and more.

The Media Bureau said it lacks the authority to order interim carriage or binding arbitration. Not surprisingly, Mediacom's lawyers disagree. Mediacom says it will submit to arbitration refereed by the Media Bureau, which the bureau urged in denying a Mediacom complaint the Sinclair had bargained in bad faith.

In the letter, Commisso also pushed for hearings on alleged "retransmission consent abuses and the FCC's handling of such abuses."

Commisso sent the letter to the chairs and ranking minority members of the Senate and House Commerce Committees and House Telecommunications Subcommittee.

Sinclair has argued that the two companies have simply failed to agree on the price it wants Mediacom to pay to carry its signals. Sinclair says it wants a price comparable to that paid for cable networks with similar ratings, and that it is ready to shake hands and walk away from negotiations.

Broadcasters have been increasingly vocal about wanting cash for their station signals, which are often the most-watched channels on cable.