Lawmakers weigh in on Cablevision, ABC dispute
Just days before three million Cablevision subscribers risk missing the Oscars, and ABC shows including Good Morning America and Lost, federal lawmakers are weighing in on the battle between the cable giant and the network's owner, Walt Disney Co.
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) wrote the Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski Wednesday, asking the agency to intervene in the dispute between Cablevision and Disney. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) also wrote Genachowski, but asked that agency stay out of it.
As reported earlier this week, Walt Disney said it would pull its WABC-7 New York area programming from Cablevision if the companies were unable to reach an agreement over retransmission consent fees by Sunday.
Cablevision said the dispute centered on $40 million in additional fees that Disney was seeking on top of the $200 million the cable provider pays each year to Disney.
The dispute follows similar feuds over retransmission fees – the rates charged for carrying broadcast content – in recent months. Analysts say there will moves by cable, and other paid television providers to seek reforms of retransmission rules at the FCC.
“These are private negotiations, but there’s a public interest at stake. Its resolution matters to the consumers who take hard earned money out of their wallets each month to pay their cable bills and shouldn’t become collateral damage in wars between executives,” Kerry wrote. He also asked for the FCC to revisit the rules.
“Regardless of how this dispute turns out, it will not be the last time that we see a public fight between cable companies and broadcasters where the consumer is likely to be the loser and we need to fix the system,” he wrote in the letter.
An FCC spokeswoman declined to comment.
Barton, meanwhile, said the market would best arbiter of a fair deal for the two parties – not the government.
“It is only when both sides face the risk that programming might be dropped that a true market negotiation can take place,” Barton wrote
March 4, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
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