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Congress eyes Fox-Cablevision fight
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By TONY ROMM | 10/16/10 5:26 PM EDT
The loss of Fox channels for roughly 3 million Cablevision subscribers in the New York area this weekend isn’t just raising alarms among sports fans, who could miss baseball playoff and football games. It’s piquing interest on Capitol Hill, too.
A slew of lawmakers have castigated both sides for failing to settle amicably how much Fox can charge Cablevision to carry its signal. Even as the two companies continue work on a new agreement, which could still arrive this weekend, some members of Congress are frustrated their voters are caught in the stalemate and now without access to Fox programming.
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In the immediate aftermath, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) has already promised a “systemic reform” of the entire retransmission rules system, which he said on Saturday would ensure consumers don’t lose access to their favorite stations when broadcasters and cable companies fail to see eye to eye.
“Otherwise, high stakes games of chicken will just continue, and those in government will be left in the position of decrying what's happening to consumers while trying not to favor one side in a dispute. That's a tricky and unproductive proposition and it's not sustainable,” said the senator, who leads his chamber’s communications subcommittee.
A spokeswoman for the senator later told POLITICO that Kerry intends to introduce his bill during the lame-duck session.
Kerry’s warning shot is the latest development in the ongoing feud between content providers and pay-TV carriers over retransmission fees. Companies like Fox have recently sought more compensation from cable providers like Cablevision, citing higher operating costs, and they resist any change to a regime they see as fair and free-market oriented. But pay-TV operators have fought aggressively against any new fees, which they sometimes pass off to consumers through higher cable bills — and they’re often the same proponents of retransmission consent reform.
This week’s standoff marks the fifth time this year — the most since 2000 — that channels have gone dark because of retransmission squabbles. Another looming showdown between Fox parent News. Corp and Dish Network could see the channel blacked out for those subscribers too on Nov. 1. Dish subscribers are already without access to Fox sports channels, as well as FX and National Geographic.
It is not clear whether Fox and Cablevision can resolve their dispute in time for this weekend’s major sporting events, including a New York Giants football game and the beginning of baseball’s two championship series, some of which will air on Fox.
But the possibility that consumers could miss out on those spectacles has prompted some in the Beltway to encourage both sides to resume negotiating in good faith.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in particular said Saturday he was “disappointed” by the interruption of Fox service to Cablevision subscribers. “While federal law provides that the terms will be set by agreement between private companies, Fox and Cablevision share responsibility for protecting their audience's interests. I expect both companies to live up to this responsibility,” he said.
Is this something Congress needs to involve themselves in?
Should they stay out of it and let the consumers make the decision as to continue to support the cable companies or networks?
For the record this has happened a lot this year and we have had blacked out channels more than once and no reduction in our bill.
We are currently in the process of switching to FIOS and I don't think the government should get involved within the dispute. As a consumer I have the choice to change cable providers or boycott the channels that are involved with the dispute if I feel they are at fault. I read an article earlier that I will have to try to find that states cablevision is purposefully not agreeing to or putting out serious offers while negotiating so that the FCC will, in the future, not allow for networks to pull programing while negotiating.
I agree that it's not an issue for Congress to decide, but I'm a DishNetwork customer who has lost FX, National Geographic, and local sports channels because of this debacle, and I could lose regular Fox 13 on Nov 1, and I really wish Fox, or Dish would pull their heads out of their butts and figure this crap out. It's such a huge pain to switch providers, and we've had good luck with Dish for 5 years now, but I'm already missing out on Sons of Anarchy, and NatGeo, I don't want to miss House, and the news, as well.
Ugh. No they shouldn't get involved, but will since it has to do with sports which has to do with money. We live in a capitalistic society.
I'm not sure what you mean by the bolded. The actual programing is not the issue here. This has happened several times with different networks over the past year or so on cablevision including Food TV and HGTV both are not mainstream channels who get the same type of draw that a sporting event would.
They need to stick to real problems. This has happened so many times with other networks and they didn't do a thing. Why is Fox Network so important? I mean really! How about they handle real issues that effect the people they represent, not which networks are airing on what cable provider.
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Can we just pay them extra not to air their propaganda news and keep Family Guy and American Dad and House on? And the Philles game?
I'd totally pay for that. A 24/7 channel mixed of sports, intelligent dramas, and irreverent cartoon comedy.
Speaking of which, whatever happened to the Cleaveland Show? I never saw it. Did it flop or something?
Totally still on, I watched it last night. It's usually after Simpsons but before Family Guy. I realized tonight that other then the Simpsons, all the other shows are now Seth McFarlen shows....I felt that was awesome (I still love the Simpsons though).
I do like watching my local Fox news in the morning, because it's always falling apart. It's just fun to watch, there's like one real newscaster and the others are all "Hi! We're on TV! Kewl! I'm gonna update my facebook, yay!", and the one real newscaster looks like he just wants to bang his head on the desk until he passes out.
But no, not a congress issue. They have real issues. The two corportaions involved need to settle the matter, becuase they're going to end up loosing customers. Oh, and for those who have lost stations, hulu.com shows pretty much all fox shows. Usually the five most recently aired episodes. All totally free, legit, and only with brief commercials.
Last edited by midnight.train; October 25th, 2010 at 03:54 AM.