Television stations owned by LIN Media have now been pulled from Mediacom cable systems in six markets, and a seventh will join the group if a retransmission consent agreement is not reached by 9/7/11. As usual, each side blames the other for the situation.
Mediacom claims that LIN is seeking exorbitant rates and is breaking with precedent by pulling its signal rather than allowing them to be carried on an interim basis while further negotiations proceed.
“We believe this is a pressure tactic to force cable, satellite or phone providers that carry LIN stations, and ultimately, you the customer, to pay more — a lot more,” said Mediacom in a note to subscribers.
LIN counters that it has successfully negotiated rates with many other MVPDs, notes that it needs fair compensation to continue to supply local news and entertainment programming, and assuring viewers it continues to continue negotiations.
“We are disappointed in the outcome of our negotiations, especially since we have successfully reached deals with every major cable, satellite and telecommunications company that recognizes our fair market value,” said LIN. “Without fair and equitable treatment, local TV stations will not be able to continue to provide top quality news, sports, entertainment, and other local programming that is most important to you.”
Mediacom provided subscribers with a list of affected LIN stations in hopes of getting them to pressure the local stations. LIN, meanwhile, has been educating viewers about alternative ways to receive the stations, either by subscribing to competing MVPDs or by getting the signals off air.
LIN did not pull stations its stations in Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News DMA, which include NBC WAVY and Fox WVBT, since they are currently providing critical news and information in the wake of Hurricane Irene. However, the company has announced the signals will be pulled 9/7/11 in the absence of a new agreement.
The WAVY/WVBT stations explained to viewers what they were asking for, writing, “The fair value we are asking for amounts to pennies a day per station, per subscriber. Remember, Mediacom already charges you to receive our local stations as part of your monthly bill. Mediacom also charges you for dozens of channels you have probably never seen and others you hardly watch at all. The rates we are asking for are a fraction of what Mediacom probably pays for many of those cable networks. Local broadcasters around the country are negotiating for fair compensation and an even playing field with pay-TV providers so that we can continue to provide you with your favorite programming.”
Other LIN stations involved in the dispute are in Mobile AL-Pensacola FL, Grand Rapids MI, Green Bay WI, Fort Wayne IN, Terre Haute IN and Lafayette IN.
RBR-TVBR observation: Cable companies, which are all for free market solutions when they are in danger of being regulated, still are holding out hope that the FCC will come in and tilt the playing field in their direction. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has already stated his doubt that the FCC has much room to maneuver in this situation, and we agree with him. But if either side is to be protected, the one that serves the FCC guiding principle of localism deserves the protection, and that means broadcasters.