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Nexstar vows to fight FCC fine over WPIX deal with Comcast

A suite in this Wichita Falls, Texas strip mall is listed as the corporate headquarters for Mission Broadcasting, the owner of 29 television stations that are controlled by Nexstar Media Group. (Photo via Google Street View)
A suite in this Wichita Falls, Texas strip mall is listed as the corporate headquarters for Mission Broadcasting, the owner of 29 television stations that are controlled by Nexstar Media Group. (Photo via Google Street View)

Nexstar Media Group has taken a substantial step toward fighting a proposed $150,000 fine over the company’s negotiation with Comcast over carriage of a New York City television station.

The discussions centered around Comcast’s distribution of WPIX-TV (Channel 11, CW), which Nexstar operates through a local marketing agreement with Mission Broadcasting.

In December 2022, Comcast was forced to drop WPIX from Xfinity TV systems in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut after its agreement with Nexstar and Mission expired. During the blackout, Comcast filed a complaint with the FCC accusing both companies of failing to negotiate a new agreement in good faith, as required under federal law.

Comcast and the broadcasters reached a new deal five days later, but the complaint remained active at the FCC. The filing accused Nexstar of demanding a waiver from Comcast that would allow it to seek redress at the FCC. Nexstar ultimately walked back that condition.

Last month, the FCC said Nexstar’s demand that Comcast not file an FCC complaint was proof that the broadcaster failed to negotiate a new carriage agreement in good faith. The FCC held Nexstar and Mission jointly liable for the matter, and proposed a forfeiture of $150,000 to settle the dispute.

This week, Nexstar and Mission filed appeals in the WPIX case, saying the FCC’s proposed fine should be set aside because the agency failed to note whether there was a legal violation of its rules.

“The Bureau may not lawfully impose forfeiture liability upon Mission without a proper finding that a legal violation has occurred. Because the Bureau erroneously determined that Mission violated the good faith negotiation rules, the forfeiture should be canceled,” attorneys representing Mission wrote in a brief.

Nexstar said it has a stake in the outcome, because the FCC apparently held it liable after finding the broadcaster communicated a “confidential litigation settlement proposal” between it and Comcast that was intended to resolve a breach of contract lawsuit filed around the same time as the carriage dispute.

The FCC found this communication also violated federal good faith rules after determining Nexstar was Mission’s sole negotiating representative for carriage of its television signals, something attorneys for Nexstar did not dispute.

Still, Nexstar said it was not given an opportunity to respond to the claims, and therefore its due process rights were violated.

“Before the FCC makes any determinations regarding Nexstar’s conduct, Nexstar is owed all of the rights accorded by due process and applicable rules and law, including the opportunity to fully address any Commission conclusions related to Nexstar’s conduct and the allegations set forth in Comcast’s complaint,” attorneys for Nexstar said.

The decision is nearly identical to one reached earlier this month, in which the FCC determined Nexstar failed to hold good faith discussions with a Hawaiian cable operator for several of its local broadcast stations. In that case, the FCC proposed a $720,000 fine against Nexstar.

In a statement provided to other media outlets, a Nexstar spokesperson said the company intends to fight the $720,000 fine as well.

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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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