Hallmark Channel’s Henry Schleiff continues to advocate strengthening the FCC’s program access carriage rules, something that’s expected to happen before year-end. The net’s 3rd largest affiliation agreements (Comcast, Time Warner Cable and DirecTV) are up for renewal before the end of the year. One distributor “is refusing even to open negotiations or make a renewal offer,” the programmer said in an FCC filing Tues. On Mon, Schleiff met with FCC chmn Kevin Martin, Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps as well as FCC staffers. Hallmark brass warned that the absence of complaints under the existing program carriage regime isn’t evidence of a lack of discrimination. Instead, it’s “a reflection of the difficulties presented to independents by the high burdens of going forward under the existing rules and the prospects for retaliation by MVPDs.” The programmer, which supports baseball-style arbitration, said video providers dominate control over negotiations, controlling not only when talks begin, but the terms they are willing to negotiate. Meanwhile, Oppenheimer issued a research note Tues saying it continues to believe that Hallmark is well positioned for carriage renewal. “Cable MSOs basic subscriber losses improve Crown’s negotiating leverage for upcoming carriage renewals,” the firm said.