Mediacom CEO blames FCC for the high price of cable


Rocco Commisso has fired off a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski accusing him of turning his back on the consumers he vowed to protect by doing nothing to rein in the cost of video programming to MVPDs such as his own cable company Mediacom. Commisso’s organization is currently locked in a retransmission stalemate with broadcast television group LIN Media, but he lays much of the blame for increasing costs on the suppliers of basic cable programming.

“For nearly a decade, I have been speaking out about the harm to Americans caused by rising programming costs,” wrote Commisso. “I devoted my keynote address at a 2003 industry event to this issue, and predicted that things would only get worse unless the Commission took an active role in finding a solution. Your remarks when you were first appointed as Chairman encouraged us to believe that, under your leadership, the Commission would finally address the problem. I regret to say that it is now almost three years later and nothing has been done.”

He supplies a laundry list of industry ills, only some of which involve broadcasters. Without specifically mentioning broadcasters, he complains about program blackouts used as a negotiating tactic. But he goes on to call retransmission consent “shameful.”

Commisso said, “The Commission’s position that it does not have the authority to intervene—even though a different interpretation of the law would clearly be sustainable—is forcing American consumers to pay billions of dollars for ‘free’ over-the-air television without receiving anything more in return.”

He did get around to mentioning the LIN altercation specifically and offered to speak with Genachowski personally on the matter. The entire letter can be read here.

RBR-TVBR observation: Last we knew, Julius Genachowski had not been appointed Programming Czar, nor had America completely done away with a free market and adopted a command-and-control economic system giving total control of the communications business to the FCC.

While local broadcast retransmission fees may be rising rapidly as a percentage, it is mainly because they were so low to being with. Perhaps MVPDs need to rein in costs of basic cable channels that charge far in excess of their viewership compared to the highly viewed local broadcast television stations MVPDs rely upon to sell subscriptions in the first place.