Policy

Allbritton: Ample Evidence of Shentel’s Bad Faith

1/23/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — Broadcaster Allbritton Communications
has the latest volley in its ongoing retransmissionconsent
battle with small cable company Shenandoah
Telecommunications (Shentel).

In a filing with the Federal Communications Commission
(a copy of which was obtained by Multichannel
News
), Allbritton, defending its earlier petition to the
FCC to force Shentel to put WJLA-TV, its Washington,
D.C., ABC affiliate, back on its system, said the record indicates
that Shentel has negotiated in bad faith. It added
that Shentel’s opposition to the petition, filed last week, is
an “odd mixture of novel and ill-formed legal theory,” and
alleged “facts, that literally cannot all be true.”

Allbritton said that WJLA had been unavailable to
Shentel subscribers because the cable
company had only pretended to negotiate
then withdrew an offer WJLA had accepted
and refused to proffer a new one,
“refusing to accept its own proposed
terms — while piously, gallingly, and
disingenuously claiming it did so to protect
its subscribers from ‘egregious rates’
that it, in fact, proposed,” said Allbritton.

In countering Shentel, Allbritton said
that it is the Communications Act, not the common law
of contracts, under which the company was acting in
bad faith; that the company essentially admitted to having
violated the FCC’s notice requirements to subscribers;
and that Shentel demonstrated a pattern of behavior
— including not telling the truth — that the FCC needs
to investigate further and levy a fine both for bad-faith
negotiations and for “apparent false statements”
to the agency.

The FCC currently has an open proceeding
in which it has proposed clarifying just
what constitutes good-faith bargaining, but
Allbritton suggested that the case against
Shentel is cut and dry and that immediate
redress is “uniquely required” because
Shentel subs are being denied “long-reliedupon
WJLA programming.”

September