Mediacom Solution: Charge Equal Rates


Washington— Mediacom Communications Corp. is strongly opposed to relaxing national broadcast-ownership limits without conditions, contending that the major TV networks would use deregulation to extract higher programming fees from cable operators.

Mediacom chairman and CEO Rocco Commisso is an outspoken critic of cable programmers owned by the major broadcast networks. Two months ago, he promised to freeze rates for a year if programming suppliers did likewise.

In a Federal Communications Commission filing Wednesday, Mediacom used the agency's review of broadcast ownership rules to portray cable networks owned by NBC, The Walt Disney Co., Viacom Inc. and News Corp. as aggressive rate-hikers who scheme to make cable MSOs take the heat for rising cable bills.

Mediacom, the eighth- largest cable company with 1.5 million subscribers, said that if the FCC allows TV station groups with cable network holdings to reach more than 35 percent of TV households, the agency should impose several conditions when those companies seek license transfer approvals.

The following are some of Mediacom's recommendations:

  • A TV station-cable network owner must charge all cable operators the same price for a cable network unless a cost-based need is shown.
  • Cable operators may offer a la carte any cable network with a tier fee that would be double the average per-channel cost of the other channels in the tier.
  • TV station-cable network owners must elect must-carry carriage, and may not bundle the sale of cable networks "overtly or through pricing schemes that make individual carriage uneconomic."
  • Bar TV station-cable network owners from imposing gag clauses that bar disclosure of rates and terms in programming contracts.