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Business Dispute Between N.Y. Cable Firm, Broadcaster Threatens To Cut Customers Off — Again

in Intellectual Property/Media by

WASHINGTON, October 15, 2010 - Cablevision customers may be cut off from watching baseball in upcoming days if a business dispute between the cable company and a local broadcaster isn't resolved by midnight Friday.

The New York cable television company is once again fighting over the fees it must pay a broadcaster -- in this case Fox -- to provide the programming to its own customers.

Cable companies have been complaining that broadcasters have been holding them hostage and using high profile events such as this week-end's baseball playoffs to jack up their fees.

Broadcasters, for their part, say that their programming is worth significantly more than what the cable companies are paying for it.

Earlier this year, Time Warner Cable reached an agreement with Belo Corp. over this issue of retransmission consent fees. The two companies agreed on undisclosed terms for Belo's 12 stations around the country, as well as local news networks, according to a report in the trade magazine Broadcasting and Cable.

"This state of affairs is getting tiresome as these disputes grow more frequent," said Gigi Sohn, Public Knowledge's president and co-founder, who was one of the petitioners for a rule-making at the FCC to address the issue earlier this year. "It is because of situations like this that Public Knowledge joined 13 other parties in March to ask the FCC to consider changing the rules governing the terms and conditions under which broadcast stations are carried on cable networks."

The petition proposes that the broadcasters should continue to allow the cable companies to carry their signals even after the contracts between the two sides have expired as the two sides negotiate, among other things.

Cablevision, along with Time Warner Cable, and the American Cable Association were among the 13 petitioners.

For a review of the issues at stake, and what the companies' lobbyists are arguing in policy circles in Washington, DC, readers can refer to the Intellectual Property Breakfast Club's event video from this June.

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