In union with ranking Senate Commerce Committee member Ted Stevens (R-AK), Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) urged FCC Chairman Kevin Martin on Tuesday to intervene in a program retransmission dispute that has resulted in the loss of local broadcast channel service to 700,000 customers of Mediacom, the eighth largest cable provider in the U.S. On January 6, after months of negotiations, Sinclair Broadcasting pulled the signals of 23 television stations from the Mediacom channel lineup after Mediacom refused to pay the rate that Sinclair sought for continued carriage of those stations. Asserting that Sinclair’s demands were unreasonable, as the signals covered by the proposed agreement had been retransmitted previously without charge, Mediacom asked the FCC to force Sinclair to submit to binding arbitration as it accused Sinclair of refusing to negotiate in good faith. The FCC’s Media Bureau refused to intervene on the grounds that it lacked the authority to require the parties to submit to arbitration. Mediacom has since appealed the bureau’s decision to the full Commission, and a decision on that appeal remains pending. In a letter to Martin, Inouye and Stevens questioned the Bureau’s ruling as they stated their belief that the FCC does possess the power to order binding arbitration. Warning that thousands of cable subscribers could be denied access to the Super Bowl broadcast this coming Sunday, the lawmakers urged “immediate action to resolve this dispute.” As Mediacom renewed its call to the FCC “to fulfill its duty to protect the public by immediately directing Sinclair to authorize Mediacom’s renewed carriage of the stations,” Sinclair Vice President Barry Faber, in a response to Inouye and Stevens, observed: “although the laws surrounding retransmission consent impose on the parties an obligation to negotiate in good faith, the laws clearly do not require an agreement to be reached.”