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Still No Break in Cablevision/Fox Impasse

Dispute enters fourth day 10/18/2010 04:15:38 PM Eastern

The carriage dispute between Cablevision Systems and Fox Networks entered and exited its third day Monday without a resolution, with no signs that either side is closer to a deal.

Representatives for both parties were hunkered down at Fox headquarters in New York on Monday for the third day but again failed in hammering out a deal. Fox pulled its WNYW and WWOR stations in New York, its WTXF station in Philadelphia and cable networks Fox Deportes, NatGeo Wild and Fox Business Network from Cablevision at 12:01 a.m. on Oct 16 after the parties could not reach a carriage agreement.

"Monday morning the parties talked again briefly," Fox said in a statement Monday afternoon. "Unfortunately, no significant progress was made because Cablevision continues to demand preferential treatment and rejects the same fair terms that have been accepted by other providers in the market."

Fox spokesman Brian Peterson said in an e-mail message that the parties will likely resume talks Wednesday, but that any contact will be via the telephone. He did not elaborate.

"When broadcasters like News Corp. remove their signals, they hurt viewers in an attempt to gain business leverage," Cablevision executive vp of communications Charles Schueler said in a statement. " Cablevision agrees to submit to binding arbitration, as called for by more than 50 elected officials from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut as the fastest and fairest way to return Fox programming to Cablevision viewers. We call on News Corp. to do the same."

As Monday passed without a deal, Cablevision customers will miss a night of Fox programming including episodes of House and Lie to Me. If the impasse lasts into Wednesday, customers will be without Game 3 of the Major League Baseball National League Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies, scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.

While Fox and Cablevision remain far from consensus concerning a carriage agreement, both sides sharpened their respective messages to customers to explain their side of the dispute.

Using the terms "extort" and "unreasonable," and "unfair," Cablevision's "updated" Monday on-screen message for subs tuning into WNYW and WWOR, says News Corp. has "acted in bad faith."

Cablevision's message emphasizes calls from some in Washington for binding arbitration and to keep the channels on the cable system. "We believe News Corp, has "acted in bad faith, claiming publicly to be willing to compromise, while privately continuing to make the same take-it-or-leave-it demands," the company told viewers.

If Fox were not bargaining in good faith, that would be grounds for an FCC complaint since the retrans law requires good-faith bargaining.

Lew Leone, VP and GM of both Fox stations, saw it quite differently. In "open letters" to viewers of both stations on Sunday, he said that Cablevision was looking for special treatment "instead of negotiating like a responsible business."
Leone said the arbitration was all about getting politicians to intervene instead. He also indicated that Cablevision has offered Fox less than 30 cents per sub. "Cablevision has stated that they intend to provide you with a rebate. But if the rebate is equal to what they offered Fox for our stations, you can look forward to a credit of less than 30 cents on your next bill."

Cablevision, meanwhile, said in its on-screen message that Fox, by contrast, was asking "more than for CBS, NBC, ABC and Univision combined."

Both sides asked subs/viewers to register their feelings with the other side."You might consider letting Cablevision know that you believe your right to see the NFL on FOX, the Major League Baseball National League Championship Series and World Series, Glee, House and all the other shows you love are worth more than a penny a day," Leone said.

"There is something you can do to help bring this situation to a conclusion," said Cablevision. "Tell News Corp. to put Fox 5 back on the air, and to keep you out of the negotiations."

An FCC spokesperson said Monday the commission would keep telling Cablevision subs of their option to switch services or change to over-the-air reception so long as the impasse remains.

"We are continuing to urge the parties to reach a quick resolution for consumers," said Jen Howard, the spokesperson. "Until this matter is resolved, the FCC will continue to educate consumers about all of their options."

The FCC posted an online advisory on what to do if the Fox/Cablevision retrans fight meant signal loss, which it has for subs in New York and Philly systems.

 

November