Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin asked the other four commissioners to support a staff ruling that the agency can’t legally impose binding arbitration on Sinclair Broadcast Group and Mediacom Communications, an FCC source said Friday.
Martin’s insistence that the agency lacks authority clashed with the view expressed in a Jan. 30 letter he received from Senate Commerce Committee chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, who urged FCC intervention.
After testifying before the Senate Commerce panel Thursday, Martin reiterated his position that Congress didn’t authorize the agency to force warring parties into biding arbitration when they can’t agree on carriage terms in retransmission-consent negotiations.
“It’s not clear to me that the commission does have the authority to order arbitration. I would say, however, though, that the commission has been doing its best to try to encourage both parties to agree to binding arbitration, even by the commission’s Media Bureau,” Martin told reporters, according to FCC spokeswoman Tamara Lipper.
Lipper added that Martin also repeated that the agency’s Media Bureau concluded that Sinclair had not engaged in bad-faith negotiations, which the law prohibits.
“The commission very clearly found there has been nothing that was unreasonable,” Martin said. “Despite that, we still encourage the parties to come and agree to binding arbitration by the Media Bureau.”