Retrans Deal Trumps Affiliation Contract


The Federal Communications Commission has ruled that a retransmission-consent deal between a station and cable system in Macon, Ga., trumps a prohibition on that deal in a network-affiliation contract.

The NBC affiliate there must allow the cable system in nearby Monroe to carry its signal even though the station's affiliation contract with NBC bans just such a carriage deal, the FCC said last week.

The agency said WMGT-TV Macon could not back out of its carriage deal with the Monroe Utilities Network simply because its affiliation contract forbids allowing carriage in a market where another NBC affiliate has exclusive rights.

NBC had granted Monroe coverage rights there to WXIA-TV Atlanta. After Monroe Utilities failed to reach a retrans deal with WXIA, it executed one with WMGT in June 2003.

Less than a month later WXIA told Monroe Utilities its affiliation contract forbid the carriage deal and asked have it nullified. But the FCC said the broadcasters cannot look to the agency to enforce coverage terms of affiliation contracts. Consequently, Monroe Utilities is entitled to continue getting WMGT programming until the carriage contract expires Dec. 31, 2005.

Because the FCC said its role was simply to determine whether a station had granted its "express authority for the retransmission of its signal," once it had reached that decision it did not need to address the allegations that the deal violated the "good faith negotiation" provision for retrans negotiations or ran afoul of network nonduplication rules.