Since 12/19, more than 100,000 Buckeye Cablevision subscribers have endured Sinclair’s blackout of WWNO-TV (NBC) in Toledo, OH. So, on 2/18 Buckeye filed a bad faith complaint at the FCC. Buckeye says it isn’t asking for the Commission to dictate an outcome or even mandate that Sinclair accept a ratings-based approach. They just want them to force Sinclair to get back to the negotiating table; stop demanding that they carry those future cable networks; and consider the competitive marketplace in the talks.
Buckeye amended its complaint 2/21 to note that Sinclair has made a “public declaration” (in a press release) that it has ended negotiations, a “flagrant violation” of the rules and requesting that the Commission “immediately initiate enforcement action against Sinclair” and require the company to “return to the bargaining table.”
“The Press Release shows SBG’s contempt for Congress’s retransmission consent negotiating regime and is a direct challenge to the FCC’s good faith bargaining rules. And it is obvious that SBG is retaliating against Buckeye for availing itself of those rules by filing the Complaint. To maintain the integrity of the retransmission consent system, the FCC must respond to SBG’s open defiance of the rules.”
The primary victims of SBG’s bad faith are Toledo cable television subscribers that have been deprived of access to NBC network programming for the last two months due to SBG’s misconduct. The Press Release publicly confirms the allegations in the Complaint and unequivocally demonstrates that SBG has no plans to provide any relief to the viewers that it is licensed to serve. Instead, SBG will continue to place its pursuit of unfair and excessive retransmission consent payments above its duty to serve Toledo viewers in the public interest. And SBG will flaunt its refusal to negotiate until the FCC makes it return to bargaining.
SBG’s conduct forces a clear and crucial choice on the FCC – the agency can either enforce the good faith rules against SBG or surrender the only weapon it has to combat unlawful bad faith. No issue of fact exists in this matter; SBG has admitted that it will not negotiate. The FCC must act swiftly to ensure that retransmission consent negotiations continue. The only way to accomplish this result and to ensure that SBG conforms its conduct to the FCC’s rules in this and future disputes is to (1) issue an order requiring SBG to return to the bargaining table immediately; and (2) commence enforcement action to examine SBG’s admitted violation of the rules.”