CWA files FCC comments in support of Fuse Media’s complaint against AT&T

CWA filed FCC comments in support of Fuse Media’s Program Carriage Complaint to the FCC. The complaint charges AT&T with discrimination against the Fuse network and in favor of its own similarly situated affiliated programming, claiming that AT&T pays its affiliated programmers more than it is willing to pay Fuse in carriage agreement negotiations.

In its complaint, Fuse claims that positive relations with AT&T over a 15-year period, including good-faith negotiations and mutually beneficial carriage arrangements, changed in 2018 when AT&T purchased Time Warner Media, whose offerings include TBS, TNT, CNN, Adult Swim and truTV. Since then, AT&T has ignored Fuse’s requests to enter renewal discussions and only responded to Fuse after Fuse threatened FCC action. Fuse says when AT&T did respond, its renewal offer was “untenable and likely unserious.” 

The result of losing its distribution on AT&T platforms, Fuse concludes, would be bankruptcy and the elimination of “a vibrant voice speaking to, and for, the multiethnic, multicultural community, especially Latinos, Afro-Latinos, and African Americans” and the “only remaining Latino-owned and managed cable network.”

Similar to Fuse’s complaint, AT&T’s shifting position toward CWA also resulted in a “stark departure” following its acquisition of Time Warner Media. CWA supported AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner with the expectation that it would lead to the creation and protection of good jobs in the United States, especially jobs that enable working people to negotiate a fair return on their work. But after the deal closed, AT&T failed to respect the agreement it made with CWA to ensure the organizing rights of employees at acquisitions like Time Warner. As CWA says in its filing: “The reason for this appears simple: like how it apparently views independent programmers that compete against the Turner networks for advertisers and viewers, AT&T apparently views union jobs at these holdings as a threat to AT&T’s bottom line.”

CWA’s FCC comments affirm that Fuse Media has presented a strong case in favor of its contention that AT&T has violated 47 C.F.R. § 76.1301(c), and that Fuse Media’s complaint demonstrates the threat media consolidation poses to diverse media ownership. Additionally, AT&T’s discriminatory activity against Fuse Media threatens an estimated one hundred jobs. As the voice of workers in the broadcast industry, CWA has reason to intervene to protect these workers’ jobs.

CWA’s comments recommend that the Commission embark on a full proceeding to investigate the facts and, if they bear out Fuse’s position, order AT&T to carry Fuse Media’s two cable networks, Fuse and FM, on equitable terms that do not unreasonably restrict Fuse and FM’s ability to compete fairly, as determined by the Media Bureau. 

Read CWA's full comments here.

Links:

CWA files FCC comments in support of Fuse Media’s complaint against AT&T (CWA, December 21, 2020)