Regulators have levied a $2.25 million fine against a Houston cable TV operator for violating of retransmission consent
rules. The Federal Communications Commission’s Media Bureau found TV Max Inc., dba
Wavevision, was carrying the signals
of six TV stations without permission.
“The commission found TV Max’s violations to be very serious, warranting a
substantial penalty, given the longstanding unauthorized carriage that
continued even after the Bureau warned TV Max about its actions,” the fine
TV Max is described as a cable operation that serves more than 10,000
subscribers in 245 apartment buildings in the Houston market. Thomas M. Balun,
Eric Meltzer and Richard Gomez are listed as the controlling parties of TV Max and related companies. Balun is listed as the CEO.
The six stations involved include KTXH-TV, a MyNet owned by Fox;
Fox O&O KRIV-TV; Univision O&Os KXLN-DT
and KFTH-DT; KPRC-TV, the NBC affiliate owned by Post-Newsweek Stations; and ABC
The commission said that during the 2012-14 carriage cycle, all of the stations
elected retrans with TV Max, which previously had retrans contracts in place with
each. The contracts with Fox, Univision and Post-Newsweek expired Dec.
31, 2011; the one with ABC expired March 2, 2012. TV Max continued to carry the
stations without extensions or renewals, the commission said. The stations
consequently filed complaints with the FCC.
TV Max argued that it did not need broadcaster consent to carry the
signals because its operation fell under the definition of a master antenna
television facility. The commission’s “MATV exception” provides that in limited
circumstances, “cable operators do not need broadcasters’ consent to retransmit
broadcast signals to building residents when the signals are received by master
antenna television facilities,” the notice said.
While TV Max was in the process of converting its buildings to master antenna
systems, only half were completed by Jan. 1, 2012. The rest were being supplied
by an off-site cable headend, making the operation subject to retransmission
consent, according to the notice.
In mid-December, the Bureau
determined that TV Max “admittedly had retransmitted broadcast signals without
consent before having installed MATV systems on all of its [multi-dwelling
unit] buildings, and that even after installing MATV systems, TV Max’s method
of providing broadcast signals to MDU residents did not fall within the MATV exception.
In particular, the Bureau referred to TV Max’s admission that “broadcast
signals are delivered to MDU residents using both the fiber ring and the MATV
Max TV was ordered to cease carriage immediately, but a follow-up investigation
on March 28, 2013 revealed it had not. TV Max responded that it had stopped
carrying the stations via the fiber ring 10 months earlier, but the commission
found this to be contrary to testimony in the record. The commission said that
as of Dec. 20, 2012, Balun confirmed signals were still being
transmitted over the fiber ring. The company later said it did not own the
fiber ring by that time, but the commission found that TV Max has “simply
assigned [it] to related companies in an effort to evade responsibility for its
The commission further noted that TV Max would continue to be in violation of
retransmission consent law if it transmitted signals “by means of a fiber ring,
or any means other than a master antenna… whether or not they own the fiber
TV Max has 30 days to respond.
Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn and Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai
all signed off on the fine.