Mediacom to FCC: Emergency

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Mediacom Communications Thursday filed an emergency petition asking the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider its Media Bureau’s refusal to order Sinclair Broadcast Group to restore its TV stations to the cable company.

The FCC Media Bureau Jan. 5 denied the cable operator’s request that it be authorized to carry Sinclair’s stations pending final resolution of its FCC complaint against the broadcaster, including appeals.

On Thursday, Mediacom sought reconsideration of that Jan. 5 order. In its filing, Mediacom argued that the FCC has the authority to make Sinclair and Mediacom submit to binding arbitration in situations where an impasse in retransmission-consent negotiations results in interruption of cable carriage of a broadcast signal. The Media Bureau in its Jan. 5 denial said it doesn’t have such authority.

Sinclair couldn’t be reached for comment.

Mediacom’s action Thursday followed FCC chairman Kevin Martin saying Wednesday that he supports binding arbitration to end the bitter carriage dispute between Sinclair Broadcast Group and Mediacom Communications.

"I continue to believe that this would be good for both parties to be submitting to,” Martin told reporters after the agency’s first public meeting of the year. Consumers, he added, shouldn’t lose access to programming while a dispute is in arbitration.

Sinclair pulled 22 TV stations from Mediacom cable systems Jan. 6 after the two parties couldn’t agree on financial terms, triggering an acrimonious contract feud that has spread to the FCC and Congress. Loss of Sinclair’s TV signals involved 2 million viewers in 700,000 Mediacom homes.

After the FCC refused to force Sinclair to restore carriage, Mediacom chairman and CEO Rocco B. Commisso sent a letter to members of Congress to complain that Sinclair singled out his company for discriminatory treatment. Sinclair shot back in its own letter to lawmakers that Commisso’s claims were baseless.

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