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Cablevision, Fox dispute ratchets up ahead of World Series; FCC says stop the "stunts"

Cablevision and News Corp.’s spat over television fees just ratcheted up a notch with both sides continuing attacks through press releases as some New York and New Jersey viewers enter their 10th day of being blocked from Fox shows.

Federal regulators, meanwhile, continued to stay on the sidelines, urging both sides to work out an agreement.

Update at 8 p.m.: On Tuesday evening, Cablevision chief executive James Dolan sent a letter to Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, asking the regulator to mediate talks between the cable company and Fox.

"I respectfully urge you to bring the parties together in the FCC offices tomorrow to work to resolve this matter and bring the World Series to over three million New York, New Jersey and Connecticut homes," Dolan wrote.

Fox, meanwhile, released a statement urging Cablevision to "return to the bargaining table," and sent its own letter to the FCC saying it has conducted negotiations over retransmission fees of its shows in "good faith." Fox has argued that federal mediation would favor Cablevision and that talks should be conducted privately between the two parties.

But the FCC called Cablevision's letter a "stunt," saying in a statement Tuesday evening that Cablevision "should spend less time writing publicity-seeking letters to the FCC, and more time at the negotiating table reaching an agreement."

Earlier Tuesday, News Corp., which owns Fox, on Tuesday sent a cease-and-desist letter to Cablevision after the New York Daily News reported that a representative of the cable service told a customer to get major league sports games on pirated Web sites.

“Copyright law exists to protect the very creative freedoms that fuel our industry. As both a creator and owner of intellectual property – not to mention major sports franchises – Cablevision knows better and should immediately call an end to this unlawful activity,” Fox said in a statement.

Some 3 million New York and New Jersey Cablevision customers have been blocked from major league baseball and other sports games. The World Series, which will be aired on Fox Wednesday, could be a flashpoint for subscribers who may decide to leave the service, analysts say.

Cablevision said it has not encouraged users to visit Web sites with pirated Fox shows. And in a statement, it said Fox has hurt consumers by blocking them from Web based shows more than one week ago.

“Fox should cease and desist its World Series blackout, put its programming back on Cablevision and agree to binding arbitration,” Cablevision said.

The letter comes after Cablevision told the FCC that Fox did not conduct negotiations in “good faith.”

Cablevision said News Corp. presented a “take it or leave it” demand for $150 million for a renewed contract. Fox spokesman Scott Grogin denied Cablevision’s description of negotiations but refused to say how much Fox is asking Cablevision to pay to retransmit its shows on New York’s Channels 5 and 9. In comments filed Tuesday to the FCC, Fox said Cablevision inaccurately describes three words -- "this is it" -- that News Corp. negotiators could have used during talks as a "take it or leave it" threat.

The FCC will allow the companies until the end of Tuesday to reply to each other’s comments to the agency. The agency asked the firms to describe negotiations over the past week to learn whether they were conducting talks in an “honest” and fair way. Commissioner Michael J. Copps has indicated that the agency should intervene directly if it looks as if the two sides are not negotiating in good faith. But the agency doesn’t have clear authority to intervene and would be in uncharted territory if it did.

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) has drafted a bill that would empower the FCC to step in on disputes over retransmission fees to determine whether they were conducted in good faith. The bill also would allow cable and satellite firms to continue broadcasting channels during negotiation breakdowns.

Previous posts of interest:
Networks block Web shows from Google TV

Pressure mounting for FCC to intervene in Cablevision, Fox dispute

An analyst's take on Fox, Cablevision dispute

By Cecilia Kang  | October 26, 2010; 8:45 PM ET
Categories:  FCC  
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Comments

If I don't get the games, both can go screw.

Posted by: coogene | October 26, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

The FCC has been useless for some years now.

Posted by: MILLER123 | October 26, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

It is not surprising that Murdoch/Fox/Newcorp are flexing their might and trying to destroy and subjugate the cable carriers one by one, just as it has the American media. The Newscorp people act like Bolsheviks with no lie, no deception, no nasty trick or betrayal too vile since their end justifies their means. They did it to Dish, Time-Warner and now Cablevision viewers, and it will continue - all superbly planned to irritate viewers of special programs and put maximum pressure on the carriers.

In my case I am glad that Fox has far overstepped its bounds and is off the air. I resent having to pay for their right wing programs which are shilling, lies, name calling and provide one sided general sponsorship of the likes of SarahP, KarlRovian, and other drips. And off the air in the two weeks before the elections.

Why in this land of liberty and so-called free markets are we not free to select the programs we want to watch, and need to pay only for them, and not be forced to pay and subsidize the intellectual porno that is FOXX. For an economic immigrant it seems to me that Rupert Murdoch has become a destabilizing force and traitor to his adopted country. And I called and left a message on Cablevision that I was happt that Fox was unplugged and I hoped they keep them unplugged!

Posted by: enough3 | October 26, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Well they're both SOL when we get to pay to watch the programming we want (when we want to watch it) on the internet instead of having to buy 200 channels.

Posted by: JoeBrones | October 26, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Hard to pick a winner out of this bag of snakes.

Posted by: silentjay | October 26, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

I don't get it. Is this the same FCC that abdicated its responsibilities to regulate basic cable and now wants to determine who gets paid to provde programming? Does the FCC have any jursidiction over a company it does not license? How does the FCC "know" anything about this dispute if there is no outstanding case or petition before it? By the way, what are the economic terms in dispute and how far apart are the parties? How much will my cable bill need to go up to satisfy Fox's greed and/or to underwrite its deal to cover the Series? Now that the teams playing are in Texas and California will anyone in New York watch? If I am trying to sell Budwieser and Buicks will I get a discount from Fox for all of those potential customers in NY who won't see my advertising? Is the Fox signal without cablecasting even usable? Has someone published a map showing where the dispute isn't so I can tell how far away I need to travel to find a bar with the game? If this means that all of the shouting heads on Fox cannot tell me how to vote next week, is there any public harm in letting this dispute work out in time? Does this make my decision to get digital TV from Direct TV make me look a lot smarter?

Fox and Cablevision; it's a tough call to figure out who to hate more. For Fox - your programming isn't worth much if no one can watch it; if no one can watch it, ad revenue is down. For Cablevision - if you don't have programming anyone wants to watch, who will want to continue paying the monthly bill? For Major League Baseball - this is what you get for selling the broadcast rights to Fox instead of a real network with real stations. For Budwieser and Buick - no one makes a purchasing decision based on your advertising anyway so pocket the rebates from Fox and call it a day.

Posted by: ralphgrutzmacher | October 26, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

The FOX channels being blocked from cable are available over-the-air for free. Get an antenna. That's all I use. I haven't subscribed to cable TV in years, and now with the perfect reception available since TV went digital there is even less reason to pay the fees.

Posted by: alrob8 | October 27, 2010 7:04 AM | Report abuse

FCC=worthless. Fox and Cablevision and Dishnetwork, stop the GREED!

Posted by: citigreg | October 27, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Fox is trying to change the rules of the game regarding retransmission fees for stations that are available for free to people with antennas. If Cablevision fails to stand firm here, all of us with cable will see future blackouts whenever retransmission contracts between content providers and cable operators expire, and we will all see our cable bills skyrocket as a result.

I am unclear about one thing here: Is Cablevision still transmitting Fox News and the Fox Business channel, and other cable outlets controlled by Uncle Rupert like Speed and the National Geographic Channel (among others)? If I'm Cablevision, I drop them also like a hot potato and tell the Bossy Aussie that if he wants to play games, they can play games with his revenue too. Cut off his voice.

If Cablevision loses this dispute, all of us who rely on Cable for our television will lose.

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Posted by: jiajia1333 | October 27, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

"all of us who rely on Cable for our television will lose."

Gee maybe then you could turn off the TV and actually live your life instead of wasting it!

Posted by: frantaylor | October 27, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

The fees seem backwards. FOX is broadcast for free. Retransmission should be free. If there is going to be a fee, it should be FOX paying Cablevision for putting more eyeball on their advertisements.

Cable companies should only pay fees for channels which are not freely broadcast, IMHO.

Posted by: david08054 | October 27, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Maybe the MLB should get involved. The MLB should tell FOX to allow retransmission or jeopardize future contracts with MLB.

Posted by: david08054 | October 27, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

This just shows how irrational the entire pricing structure truly is. ALL content (telephone, tv, internet) should be treated equally. There should be a payment for the connection and another for the amount of data used.

If you want non-free content, pay for it by the show or season - not as some pre-packaged deal with 90% stuff you don't care about.

Posted by: AlibiFarmer | October 27, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

ESPN Radio will carry World Series Game 1 for those Cablevision subscribers who don't want to pay $9.95 to MLB.com for streaming the game to their computers.

People are scrambling to find alternatives according to Bloomberg.com.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-27/fans-plot-world-series-sweep-to-bars-mlb-com-amid-tv-blackout.html

Posted by: TheNervousCat | October 27, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

ESPN Radio will carry World Series Game 1 for those Cablevision subscribers who don't want to pay $9.95 to MLB.com for streaming the game to their computers.

By the way, people in the NY area are scrambling to find alternatives according to Bloomberg.com.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-27/fans-plot-world-series-sweep-to-bars-mlb-com-amid-tv-blackout.html

Posted by: TheNervousCat | October 27, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Fox chose the wrong world series to hold hostage.

I don't know anybody who cares about Giants v. Rangers. It has all the charm of watching a grapefruit league game.

Posted by: Skeptic1 | October 27, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

All are greedy. It was someone other than Fox a few months ago. Cable needs Fox more than Fox needs cable. If you want Fox, just get an antenna. A few months without cable and your antenna will have long paid for itself.

Posted by: gmclain | October 27, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

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