Are Nine Sinclair-Controlled Stations Acting In ‘Bad Faith’?


Consider the source.

AT&T, owner of DBS provider DirecTV, has filed a “bad faith” complaint with the FCC against nine licensees — all with agreements giving Sinclair Broadcast Group control of their stations — that have collectively “pulled” 20 stations from DirecTV and U-Verse homes on May 30 and June 10.

The news came via the American Television Alliance (ATVA) — a pro-MVPD lobbying organization that has consistently finger-pointed broadcast TV owners as the lone party to blame in retransmission fee fights that are getting uglier and more widespread.

Stations licensed to Deerfield Media, GoCom Media of Illinois, Howard Stirk Holdings, Mercury Broadcast Group, MPS Media, Nashville License Holdings, Roberts Media, Second Generation of Iowa and Waitt Broadcasting — all managed by Sinclair — are not on the AT&T-controlled services due to a breakdown in negotiations over a new retransmission fee deal.

AT&T asserts that the stations “are refusing to negotiate with AT&T,” as does ATVA.

This claim led AT&T to make the “bad faith” complaint with the FCC on Tuesday (6/18).

A 49-page “public version” of its complaint was filed with the FCC, and it includes some blacked-out language.

In it, AT&T calls out the nine licensees for being “in flagrant violation” of the Commission’s rules by refusing to negotiate “for months on end.”

Specific references to the retransmission agreement were blacked out in the public document. But, AT&T is attempting to get the FCC on its side by arguing that Sinclair “has inflicted — and continues to inflict — significant harm on consumers.”

Given the FCC’s actions against Sinclair in 2018 for not being fully truthful about some of its proposed spin-offs integral to its now-aborted merger with Tribune Media, it appears AT&T is using its Hearing Designation Order and last year’s concerns to its advantage.

Will that fly with the FCC? That remains to be seen.

The impacted stations are as follows:

RBR+TVBR was unable to receive comment from Sinclair by its daily news deadline.

With 213 “blackouts,” 2017 was the worst year for retransmission fee negotiations gone bad.

So far in 2019, some 65 service disruptions have been seen, with MVPDs and TV station owners equally culpable for shutting out paying subscribers to a local television station they may wish to see.


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