Mediacom's Commisso Says Broadcasters Engaging in "Economic Blackmail" - Broadcasting & Cable

Mediacom's Commisso Says Broadcasters Engaging in "Economic Blackmail"

Chairman sends letter to Capitol Hill following retrans agreement with Sinclair
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Mediacom wasted no time in letting Washington know just how it felt about its
just-completed retrans deal with Sinclair.

Hours after a deal was announced with both sides at least
agreeing they were glad it was over, Mediacom Chairman Rocco Commisso fired off
a letter to Capitol Hill talking about "broadcasters engaging in economic
blackmail"

Company spokesman Tom Larsen had told B&C earlier in the day Mediacom would try to enlist the help of
Senate Communications Subcommittee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) to fix
what he called a broken system.

The letter, addressed to Kerry, thanked him for putting a
spotlight on the issue, but said unless the FCC reforms the process
"stripping consumers of access to programming" will continue to be a
broadcaster negotiating tactic.

When a cable operator's contract to retransmit a signal
expires, as Mediacom's would have Dec. 31 without an 8-day extension agreed to
by both sides, a broadcaster is within its rights to pull the signal, though
Kerry has been weighing in publicly, suggesting that the loss of college football
games is too high a consumer price to pay for that contractual right, or at
least broadcasters should provide extensions to avoid that outcome.

"In the past, it has been all too easy for policy makers
to dismiss calls for reform of the retransmission consent rules just because
disaster is averted by a last minute deal that prevents service from being
disrupted.," said Commisso. "But, as the recent Sinclair/Fox
experiences demonstrate, the system is broken. Consumers are being harmed both
by the uncertainty created by broadcasters' threats to allow their signals to
"go dark" and, over the longer term, by the increased costs that are the
product of a negotiating process that allows broadcasters to hold consumers
hostage."

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