A group representing small and mid-sized cable television companies is opposing the proposed acquisition of Charleston’s ABC station.

On the web

Go to americancable.org/node/4380 to see the American Cable Association’s petition to the Federal Communications Commission.

The American Cable Association said the sale of WCIV-TV 4 to Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. “will reduce competition and harm consumers.”

The trade organization said if the deal is approved, its members would be harmed because Sinclair would control two local stations that could work together when negotiating retransmission fees.

“Sinclair’s intent is as clear as it is anti-competitive — to gain insurmountable bargaining leverage over ACA members and stage, when needed, massive and strategically timed blackouts to enhance the receipt of windfall profits,” association CEO Matthew M. Polka said in statement.

The group is asking the Federal Communications Commission to either block the sale or impose conditions to keep the two Sinclair-controlled stations from colluding.

Sinclair said a representaitve would not be available to respond until Wednesday.

Retransmission fees have become a big revenue source in the broadcasting business. In exchange for their programming, networks have started charging TV station owners, which, in turn, have been seeking payments from cable companies and satellite providers that carry their signals.

The issue gets more complicated in the case of Sinclair. The broadcaster has used loopholes to skirt federal rules that prohibit one company from owning more than one TV station in smaller markets like Charleston.

Locally, Sinclair owns WMMP-TV outright. It bought the local MyNetworkTV affiliate in 1998.

But since then, the company also has been running WTAT-TV in North Charleston for Cunningham Broadcasting Corp., which holds the license to the local Fox affiliate. Cunningham is what Sinclair has described as a “sidecar” business with close ties to its own operations.

Hunt Valley, Md.-based Sinclair plans to sell WMMP in the hopes of winning FCC approval to buy WCIV. The deal was announced in late July.

“Under FCC rules, the duopoly ownership of more than one of the four most highly rated stations in a local market — typically, the affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox — is prohibited,” the cable group said.

Sinclair is proposing is a “virtual Big Four TV station” duopoly, the Pittsburgh-based association added.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.