Toledo retrans/SSA battle goes to court


GavelRaycom Media owns CBS WTOL in the Toledo market. American Spirit Media just bought Fox WUPW from LIN and entered into an SSA with Raycom. Now Buckeye Cablevision is suing to force American Spirit to negotiate its own retransmission consent deal independently.

According to an article in the Toledo Blade, the contract between WUPW and Buckeye ended 5/21/12. However, RBR-TVBR has to point out that this has been one of the more civil negotiations we’ve heard of during the past few years, insofar as American Spirit is allowing the cable system to continue airing WUPW programming as the dispute moves forward.

The relationship between the two television stations is completely legal, although it has been widely reported that the FCC will take a close look at local broadcast television SSAs in the context of the pending biennial review of media ownership rules.

Legally, the two stations are separate as far as FCC licensing goes, and Buckeye wants the court to hold that this separation requires that they negotiate retransmission deals separately.

The court has not yet set a date to consider the dispute.

RBR-TVBR observation: Is there a law that states that the two stations are allowed to share a promotions director but not a retransmission negotiator? It will be interesting to see what a local court thinks.

We have to mention in passing that communications law is very specialized. Broadcast licensees that hire a local attorney for FCC matters can run into problems, regardless of the overall ability of that attorney, simply because of the attorney’s lack of specific knowledge of how the FCC works.

Similarly, a court that does not typically deal with inside-baseball FCC-related matters is very capable of coming up with a ruling that comes as a complete surprise to people experienced in communications law.

We suspect that no matter who wins this particular case, it will start working its way up the ladder until it makes it, at the very least, to the circuit court of appeals level one rung beneath the Supreme Court.