Mediacom: FCC Pushing Parties For New Years Retrans Resolution

Media Bureau and Chairman's office urging parties to resolution
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At
press time, the FCC was still pushing Sinclair and Mediacom to resolve their
retrans fight as the Dec. 31 deadline for TV stations potentially being pulled
from Mediacom cable systems drew closer.

According
to Tom Larsen, VP, legal and public affairs, for the cable operator, that
pushing was coming from both the Media Bureau and chairman's office.
"We've been asked to give a daily update to large numbers of people in the
bureau and the chairman's office." The upshot of those e-mails and phone
calls: No movement. "We've talked and presented offers and they have not
accepted those," he says.

At
the FCC's urging, said Larsen, the two sides brought in an outside arbitrator
Monday, but that didn't work. Larsen says the two sides are still talking,
however.

With
viewers/constituents potentially losing cable access to college football games
on those stations, Capitol Hill and the FCC have both been pressuring the
parties to come to a deal or at least an interim agreement that would keep the
stations on during the negotiations and past the Dec. 31 deadline.

The
president of the University of Iowa (whose Hawkeyes are playing the Georgia
Tech Yellow Jackets in the Orange Bowl), also sent a letter urging the parties
to resolve the dispute, according to Larsen.

Mediacom
asked the FCC to step in and force that interim carriage, but the commission
has not acted on that emergency request--filed a couple of months ago--and is
unlikely to step in say various sources, who point out it has not done so in
the past when stations were dropped during retrans fights.

Larsen
says Mediacom has a standing offer to accept a 90-day extension during which it
would pay--temporarily--the Sinclair asking price that is the current bone of
contention.

"We've
been aggressively been trying to get a deal done," says Larsen, "and
we have been encouraged by the FCC to do that. Today, we feel we have done everything
the FCC has asked us to do in terms of trying to move the needle here to get
something done."

 A
Sinclair official had not returned a call at press time. but in a letter to
Mediacom CEO Rocco Commisso last week, Sinclair CEO David Smith said that the
company was not interested in a 90-day extension, though he would agree to a
one-year extension at Sinclair's current asking price.

"[I]f
you are truly interested in the public interest," said Smith, "you
should agree to pay such amount for the remained of 2010."

Smith
argues that a 90-day extension would shift leverage to Mediacom since it would
take the deadline past the time of more popular programming--that would include
college and pro football playoff and championship games, the kind of
programming the FCC recognizes as must-have.

He
also points out that if the contract cannot be renegotiated before Jan. 1,
cable viewers can still watch the games over the air, or on DirecTV or DISH.

""we
understand Mediacom's interest in retaining its paying subscribers," he
wrote Commisso, "but contrary to the inference in your letter, the
citizens of Iowa (and elsewhere) can watch the Orange Bowl (and other great
programming we carry) without Mediacom."
Mediacom: FCC Pushing Parties For Deal

A
Sinclair executive had not returned a call at press time for response on the
status of the negotiations.

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