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Commisso blasts FCC for inaction

Thu, 09/01/2011 - 8:30am
Brian Santo

Heading into retrans renegotiation season, and with serial offender Lin Media blacking out video distributors yet again, Rocco Commisso, CEO of Mediacom (the victim of the blackout), challenged FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to finally make good on a promise to do something to protect American cable consumers.

Commisso has clearly lost patience with the Commission, blasting it for its "inexplicable inaction" that allows programmers to continuously raise their rates at unjustifiable rates and get away with pulling their programming during negotiations. Between 2003 and 2008 alone, programmers raised their rates at four times the rate of inflation, Commisso noted in his letter to Genachowski dated today.

The FCC is, in fact, in the process of reconsidering the rules that apply to retransmission consent.

But it's not fast enough for some.

Lin Media pulled several of its stations from Mediacom last week. The only reason it didn't pull all of them, apparently, is because Mediacom asked to be allowed to continue rebroadcasting local stations to subscribers in Virginia who were in the crosshairs of Hurricane Irene because those people might need access to emergency broadcast information.

Smaller cable operators have been complaining for years and years about the imbalance in negotiating power that now greatly favors programmers in retransmission contracts. In recent years, programmers have felt strong enough to pinch some of the bigger MVPDs, finally attracting the attention of the FCC.

The ACA chimed in yesterday, with ACA President Mathew Polka stating: "Lin TV's decision today to stage a blackout against Mediacom cable customers is deplorable and should serve as a warning to the Federal Communications Commission to expect much more of the same as cable operators prepare to renew thousands of retransmission consent contracts that expire at the end of the year."

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