Dish, ACA say net neutrality decision means FCC has power to order interim carriage

Representatives from Dish Network, Mediacom and the ACA met recently with FCC officials to discuss amendments to the commission's rules on retransmission consent. At the meeting, representatives specifically pointed out that the D.C. District Court's recent decision to uphold the Open Internet Order supports the idea that the Administrative Procedure Act's notice requirements should not impede the FCC's authority to order interim carriage.

Broadcasters have argued that the FCC does not the right to intervene in order to address violations of good faith negotiating rules. But the ACA, along with Mediacom and Dish, argued that the net neutrality decision means the FCC can get involved. The companies asserted that FCC authority should be used as a remedial measure "as a means of protecting consumers from the use of blackouts as a coercive negotiating tactic," according to an FCC filing.

The companies added broadcasters use blackouts as bargaining chips before a "true impasse" has been reached.

But the National Association of Broadcasters argued that Dish, as well as DirecTV, are responsible for an inordinate combined total of 84 percent of retransmission disputes.

Indeed, Dish is currently entangled in a pair of high-profile retransmission disputes that have resulted in blackouts. Tribune Broadcasting's 42 stations in 33 markets are currently not being shown to Dish subscribers as the two companies work to hammer out a new carriage deal.

Dish has suggested Tribune submit to binding arbitration to achieve the fair market rates it wants for its channels. Tribune responded by calling the offer "hollow" and suggesting the FCC monitor future negotiations.

In addition, Dish recently blacked out the NFL Network and NFL RedZone after the satellite provider and the league were unable to agree on new carriage terms.

DirecTV, for its part, is also involved in a blackout affecting three ABC affiliates in North Dakota.

While the debate continues, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has dropped hints that he may side with the NAB. During NAB's annual show in April, Wheeler simply smiled when asked why changes should be made when 99 percent of retransmission deals already get done.

Related articles:
ABC affiliate says DirecTV blackout 'not about greed,' NBA Finals affected
Dish ditches NFL Network, NFL RedZone in carriage dispute
Tribune calls Dish offer 'hollow,' proposes letting FCC monitor negotiations
Wheeler tips hand at siding with NAB on retrans reform