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Hawaiian Telcom says Nexstar ordered it to withdraw FCC complaint

The demand came after Nexstar and Hawaiian Telcom ironed out details of a new carriage agreement.

The demand came after Nexstar and Hawaiian Telcom ironed out details of a new carriage agreement.

The skyline of Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
The skyline of Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Cable operator Hawaiian Telcom has lobbed fresh accusations against broadcaster Nexstar Media Group over its ongoing carriage dispute involving several TV channels.

On Monday, attorneys representing Hawaiian Telcom said it had reached an “agreement in principle” with Nexstar to return KHON (Channel 2, Fox and CW), KHII (Channel 9) and NewsNation to its cable TV platform, but the deal ultimately fell apart after Nexstar sprang a number of demands on the telecom at the last minute.

Those demands called for Hawaiian Telcom to drop an earlier complaint filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that accused Nexstar of not negotiating carriage of its channels in good faith, which the broadcaster is required to do under federal law. The broadcaster also reportedly demanded that Hawaiian Telcom not file future complaints against Nexstar with the FCC.

“Incredibly, Nexstar’s post-complaint conduct continues to defy the requirements of good faith negotiations,” Hawaiian Telcom said in an amended complaint filed with the FCC and reviewed by The Desk on Tuesday.

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Hawaiian Telcom said it has refused all of Nexstar’s new demands, which the broadcaster is requiring in order to secure a new agreement to carry its two Honolulu broadcast stations and NewsNation.

The channels have been unavailable to Hawaiian Telcom subscribers since June 30, after a multi-year agreement between the cable provider and Nexstar expired. Earlier this month, Hawaiian Telcom said Nexstar refused to agree to a one-week extension while both sides hammered out a new deal, which reportedly involves higher retransmission fees for the same set of channels.

Instead, Nexstar waited until the last minute to counter with an offer to extend its agreement in two consecutive one-hour windows. By the time the offer reached Hawaiian Telcom’s offices, it was too late for executives to negotiate an extension, and the cable platform was forced to drop the channels.

Hawaiian Telcom says it has already worked out various other elements of the agreement, which presumably includes the issue over retransmission fees. But Nexstar’s fresh demands that it drop its FCC case and agree not to file new complaints in the future is standing in the way of getting the deal done. The cable company is now asking the FCC to act swiftly on the matter.

“Nexstar’s attempt to obscure the fact that it had acted in bad faith, including demanding withdrawal of Hawaiian Telcom’s initial complaint, as a condition of reaching agreement, is no different [from] a schoolyard bully — after stealing a kid’s lunch money — threatening further harm for seeking the help of an authority figure,” attorneys for Hawaiian Telcom said.

Related: Follow the latest coverage at www.carriagedispute.com

The carriage dispute is at least the second involving Nexstar and a traditional pay television platform over the last few weeks. In late June, DirecTV was forced to pull more than 160 local ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and CW Network affiliates from its satellite and streaming service after an agreement between the two sides lapsed.

Over the last few weeks, DirecTV has been particularly vocal in accusing Nexstar of exerting its market dominance in an effort to drive up prices. Some of its complaints were cast earlier this year when DirecTV filed an antitrust lawsuit against Nexstar, charging the broadcaster with violating federal ownership rules through its wholesale operation of television stations licensed to Mission Broadcasting and White Knight Broadcasting.

Nexstar has not denied DirecTV’s accusation that it is seeking more money in exchange for a new agreement to carry its local broadcast stations, but instead says its demand is “fair” and has accused DirecTV of holding customers “hostage” while the two sides continue to negotiate. On the lawsuit, Nexstar says it follows all federal laws with respect to its ownership and operational control of TV stations.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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