NAB accuses 'bad actor' pay-TV operators of ginning up retrans disputes, targets Dish, Mediacom, DirecTV

The NAB is accusing pay-TV operators, specifically naming Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH), DirecTV (NYSE: T) and Mediacom, of manufacturing retransmission-related disputes with broadcasters in order to influence regulatory decision-making.

The broadcast lobbying group made these accusations during a recent meeting at the office of FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai and in a follow-up ex parte letter sent to the agency. 

"Last month, NAB alerted the commission that it was likely to see an uptick in retransmission consent disputes involving certain MVPDs in light of new developments at the commission," said Rick Kaplan, executive VP and general counsel for the National Broadcasting Association (NAB), in the regulatory filing. "Recent experience suggests that MVPDs manufacture disputes before critical regulatory proceedings as a means to encourage legislators and regulators to intervene and tinker with the current market-based system."

Kaplan said that since the NAB issued its warning, a "usual cast of characters -- most notably Dish, DirecTV  and Mediacom -- have been involved in several retrans negotiation impasses."

Kaplan also called Mediacom "the pay TV poster child for self-serving behavior," noting that the mid-sized MSO "has been particularly busy this summer. It lambasted the FCC for failing to inject itself into the free market, accused broadcasters of using Nazi-like propaganda to protect their Congressionally-mandated right, filed a widely-ridiculed petition for rule-making and then promptly got involved in a conveniently timed retransmission consent dispute with a local broadcaster that has since been resolved without government intervention. They even built a website to publicize the dispute and to transparently link the impasse with their petition for rule-making."

Indeed, Mediacom has been involved recently with retrans-related disputes with Granite Broadcasting and Media General, and also filed its own ex parte letter to urge FCC rule changes governing retransmission negotiations. 

"NAB and its broadcast TV members are clearly troubled by the effectiveness of Mediacom's retransmission consent reform efforts at the FCC," Mediacom representative Thomas Larsen told FierceCable in response to NAB's filing. "Otherwise, why would a trade association representing many of the world's biggest media companies be devoting so much of its time and energy trying discredit the arguments of a mid-sized cable company with less than 900,000 video customers."

In summation, the NAB asked the FCC to consider the "bad actor factor" among pay-TV operators in regard to proposed changes to retrans rules. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has already proposed ending "exclusivity" rules that restrict pay-TV operators from pulling in signals from distant network affiliates when local stations threaten blackouts. 

For more:
- read this NAB ex parte filing

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