Mediacom: Retrans Enforcement Needs Teeth

Cable Operator Pushes for FCC to Extend Retrans Clout

Mediacom Monday tried to shame the FCC into acting on its long-standing retransmission consent proceeding by rethinking its conclusion about the limits of the FCC's power in retrans disputes. Mediacom chairman Rocco Commission has been trying to get the FCC more involved in resolving retrans disputes for years.

In a letter to Michelle Ellison, chief of staff to FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn, Mediacom senior  vice president and general counsel Joseph Young suggested that the FCC, at least under the last two chairs, has taken a Homer Simpson approach to retransmission-consent disputes and blackouts: "[H]ide under some coats and hope that, somehow, everything will work out."

Young told Ellison that such an approach was indifferent to the authority that the FCC has to protect consumers. He said he hoped chairwoman Clyburn would, by contrast, act decisively in the short term and in the long term the FCC would re-evaluate the conclusion "that the FCC is powerless." But he said that, based on reports about the current dispute, "it seems that the commission once again is hiding under the cloak of powerlessness and doing nothing more than jawboning and warning the parties to obey the toothless rules on good faith negotiation."

Clyburn said last week that she was unhappy with the lack of a deal in the CBS/Time Warner Cable dispute and reiterated that she was prepared to take "appropriate action" if the dispute were not resolved. She has not said just what that action might be.