Sinclair bristles at TWC


Time Warner Cable’s Get Tough or Roll Over website expresses the opinion that it will get a retransmission deal with Sinclair by the 12/31/10 deadline, but that’s not what Sinclair thinks. It went where most broadcasters don’t go by offering to submit to binding arbitration, but says TWC is demanding shackles on the process to tilt the session dramatically in its favor.

Sinclair described in detail the conditions that TWC was demanding: “Among these onerous conditions were (1) that the arbitration would only relate to a small number of the television stations covered by the existing agreement that terminates on December 31, 2010, (2) that the arbitration would be conducted in complete secrecy with no access to information for the public and (3) that the arbitrator would be very limited in the evidence that could be considered in the arbitration.  Specifically, with respect to this last condition, Time Warner Cable would refuse to allow the arbitrator to review evidence of amounts that Time Warner Cable pays for the right to carry any channel other than a local broadcast station, and even in the case of local broadcast stations Time Warner would not permit the arbitrator access to the amount it pays for stations owned by the broadcast television networks.  In addition, Time Warner would refuse to provide the arbitrator access to the amount it would pay to receive FOX network programming in the Sinclair markets, programming that is identical to the programming that Sinclair would provide to Time Warner Cable.”

“It is unfortunate that despite their public demands for arbitration in the event of retransmission consent impasses, when presented with a real opportunity to serve the public interest, Time Warner Cable has now demonstrated no real interest in a fair arbitration process,” commented Sinclair Executive Vice President and General Counsel Barry Faber commented, “By imposing limitations on what evidence an arbitrator would be permitted to see, Time Warner Cable is attempting to tilt the playing field in their favor rather than allowing an impartial third party the opportunity to make a reasoned decision based on all applicable information. Clearly, the public thinks the amounts Time Warner Cable pays for all programming are relevant to the amount that Time Warner would pay for these channels, as evidenced during a recent Congressional hearing on retransmission consent when Senator John Kerry asked Time Warner Cable’s CEO, Glenn Britt, how much they pay for ESPN, a question Mr. Britt claimed not to be able to answer.  We also think it is disingenuous for Time Warner to claim to be in favor of arbitration, while at the same time unilaterally refusing to submit to arbitration with respect to approximately half of the television stations involved in the negotiating impasse.”

Added Sinclair President and CEO David Smith “Time Warner Cable’s actions demonstrate that they are discriminating in the price they are willing to pay for local broadcast stations. In order for an arbitrator, the public and the FCC to understand how unreasonable Time Warner Cable is being, they need to disclose the price they pay for all of the programming they acquire.  We are confident that the price we are requesting to be paid for our highly rated television stations is a fraction of the amount that Time Warner pays for far less popular programming.  Their unwillingness to share this vital information and their desire to cloak the arbitration process in secrecy is further evidence of this unreasonable and discriminatory behavior.  In order to avoid being a victim of Time Warner’s behavior, the public needs to know whether or not the money they entrust to Time Warner Cable is being used in a rational manner to obtain the programming that is most important to Time Warner Cable’s subscribers.  We do not believe that is the case today given that a recent consumer study confirmed that CBS, ABC, FOX and NBC programming makes up the four most important ‘must have’ programming for consumers, and we again call on Time Warner Cable to agree to a fair and public arbitration process, complete with disclosure of all their programming expenditures.”

Sinclair provided a list of owned and managed stations that are subject to the TWC negotiation: WTTA (Tampa, FL), WLFL & WRDC (Raleigh, NC), WCGV & WVTV (Milwaukee, WI), KABB & KMYS (San Antonio, TX), WSYX & WTTE (Columbus, OH), WSTR (Cincinnati, OH), WUTV & WNYO (Buffalo, NY), WSYT & WNYS Syracuse, NY), WXLV & WMYV (Greensboro, NC),  WRGT & WKEF (Dayton, OH), WGME (Portland, ME), WUHF (Rochester, NY), WDKY (Lexington, KY), WCHS & WVAH (Charleston, WV), WABM & WTTO (Birmingham, AL), WTAT & WMMP (Charleston, SC), WEAR (Pensacola, FL), WTVZ (Norfolk, VA), WPGH & WPMY (Pittsburgh, PA), WTWC (Tallahassee, FL) and KBSI (Cape Girardeau, MO).

RBR-TVBR observation: This is really quite amazing. MVPDs want free and open negotiations – when they are the ones with must-have programming to sell. When somebody else has the programming, they want favorable government intervention. They want arbitration – but only if it is a process rigged in their favor. What’s amazing is that the transparent self-serving actions of companies like TWC earn their execs so much as the time of day on Capitol Hill.