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Day Four: Cablevision/Fox Dispute Rages On

FCC chairman urges parties to reach resolution 10/19/2010 09:00:00 PM Eastern

Carriage negotiations between Cablevision Systems and Fox Networks finished their fourth day Tuesday with no agreement, even as Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski urged the parties to put their personal differences aside and reach a deal.

Fox pulled its broadcast stations in New York and New Jersey as well as cable networks Fox Deportes, NatGeo Wild and Fox Business Network on Oct. 1.

As a result, Cablevision customers will miss Game 3 of Major League Baseball's National League Championship Series, which was scheduled to air at 4 p.m. today.

In a statement, Genachowski said he had phone conversations with the CEOs of both companies, adding that he was "deeply troubled that Cablevision and Fox are spending more time attacking each other through ads and lobbyists than sitting down at the negotiating table. The time for petty gamesmanship is over."

The chairman added that the FCC would attempt to determine whether either side was not negotiating in good faith, a point at which the agency is empowered to step in per the retransmission consent law.

Genachowski's comments come on the heels of a draft bill introduced by U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) that would require broadcasters to keep their signals on distributors' systems through negotiations and would make the FCC mediator in such talks.

But so far, both sides are at a stalemate. Fox negotiators, after a few days in New York, headed back to Los Angeles on Monday. Tuesday's negotiations consisted of a brief phone call according to Fox, although the talks are expected to continue Wednesday.

Cablevision again called for independent third party arbitration to settle the matter, with Fox claiming that direct business-to-business negotiations are the right way to go.

Both sides have increasingly stepped up the vitriol as the battle has raged on, with Cablevision calling Fox "greedy" and Fox calling Cablevision "hypocrites." In a statement Tuesday, Fox pointed to Cablevision's poor memory regarding requests for government intervention.

Fox pointed to a filing the cable  company made to the Federal Communications Commission three weeks ago arguing against using arbitration or stand stills to resolve a dispute between its MSG and MSG Plus sports networks and satellite distributor Dish Network.

"The Commission may not compel MSG to involuntarily continue providing its programming to Dish without contravening the First Amendment." Cablevision said in the filing, according to Fox. "The public will not be well served by a precedent under which (distributors) need not negotiate in good faith, but can deliberately delay negotiations up to the brink of a programming pressure point, put forward a bad faith proposal and then rely on the FCC to provide a one-sided standstill remedy that allows the distributor to jettison key consideration for the right to carry that service."

While Fox called the filing evidence of Cablevision's "startling hypocrisy," the MSO had a more tempered response.

"Both parties have a position, but only Cablevision has joined with more than 50 government leaders with a solution, binding arbitration under the direction of a neutral third party," Cablevision executive vice president of communications Charles Schueler said in a statement. "By now it should be clear even to News Corp. that binding arbitration is the fastest and fairest way to return Fox programming to our customers."

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