NAB blasts Mediacom over 'silly' retrans fee complaint


Michelle Clancy

| 17 August 2015

Mediacom has come under fire from the National Association of Broadcasters for asking the FCC to regulate the fees that local broadcasters demand from cable operators for access to their feeds.

The cable operator's argument is that the cost of carriage has forced it to raise its rates. It's "a lose-lose-lose outcome for the American public," company chairman and CEO, Rocco B Commisso, said in a letter to the FCC.

Mediacom asserts that the fees charged by local broadcasters grew 8,600% between 2005 and 2012, and have increased by another $3 billion per year since FCC chairman Tom Wheeler took office, "a larger increase than in any similar period since retransmission consent was created in 1992."

Overall, he said, the average monthly wholesale programming costs have grown to over $45 per subscriber.

NAB blasted the MSO for providing dismal customer service and using the argument, which it characterised as "silly," as a tactic to line its pockets.

"Mediacom, a company that appears to make special effort to provide dismal customer service, has come to the Commission, hat in hand, asking yet again for the government's help to grow its already hefty bottom line. For a host of reasons, including the fact that its petition is based on a wholly false premise, the Commission should swiftly dismiss its plea," NAB wrote in a filing with the FCC.

It added: "Instead of entertaining this self-serving petition, the Commission should look squarely at the anti-consumer behaviour of Mediacom itself and consider how to finally help pay-TV customers that have suffered far too long from high prices and deplorable customer service.

For its part, Mediacom argued that the FCC should step in to its retransmission negotiations with TV broadcasters. "The broadcast industry's commitment to free over-the-air service is dying, and television viewers all over the country have become subject to retransmission consent-fuelled increases in the price of pay-TV service or service disruptions that result from retransmission consent impasses," Mediacom wrote in a recent FCC filing. "These price increases and service disruptions hit hardest those viewers retransmission consent was supposed to protect - those that cannot receive local broadcast signals without MVPD service."