Cabler’s unauthorized retransmission fine sticks


During a retransmission consent negotiation, Bailey Cable TV chose not to honor the demands of two television stations to be pulled from its system after contracts had expired. It subsequently claimed that the FCC harbors “animosity” to the system’s owner.

The scene is the Baton Rouge DMA. The broadcast stations involved are CommCorp’s Fox WGMB and White Knight’s NBC WVLA. The stations are party to an SSA that has CommCorp in the driver’s seat.

In its earlier defense, Bailey stated it was aware of the expired carriage contracts, but argued that the television stations were seeking a “dramatic increase in their fees, that they picked up the signals via antenna rather than via satellite or internet, and that the broadcasters were using the FCC as a “tool.” It also asked the FCC to “require the negotiation of a reasonable rate.”

The FCC actually sat down with both parties in an attempt to resolve the dispute on 2/3/12 to no avail. In the final analysis, it ruled that the television stations were correct and explained to Bailey that at $7.5K per day for unauthorized retransmission, times two for two television stations, over 34 days, could result in a $510K fine. It hit the cable company instead with two $15K fines for a $30K total.

In appealing the $30K, Bailey said it was unfair of the FCC to split the proceeding into two separate ones, one for each station. The FCC said was nonsense, noting that there is ample precedent for treating the case in this manner.

The FCC also had this to say: “We note that instead of submitting information that might justify reducing the forfeiture, Bailey asserts ‘that senior Bureau management bears some curious animosity towards Mr. Bailey.’” The FCC said that there was “…no factual basis for this unsupported assertion.” Indeed, to the contrary, the FCC said it took numerous steps to give Bailey the chance to make its case.

The fines stand.

RBR-TVBR observation: That argument will work. “Dear FCC, we would like you to reduce this fine because you hate us. And it’s not just anybody at the FCC, it’s senior FCC officials that hate us.” It’s like trying to get out of a speeding ticket by telling the arresting officer that he’s a power-mad government toadie who hates law-abiding citizens just because they drive too fast. Unbelievable.