NJ Senators Call For FCC To Intervene In Cablevision/Fox Squabble

As Cablevision subscribers in the NYC and Philadelphia area go without access to their local Fox affilliates because of the protracted carriage fee fracas between the cable company and the broadcaster, the two U.S. Senators from the oft-maligned state of New Jersey have jointly penned a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski asking for the Commission to intervene.

Reads the letter:

Dear Chairman Genachowski:

News Corp. (FOX) and Cablevision recently failed to reach an agreement for the retransmission of WNYW (NY channel 5), WWOR (NJ channel 9) and WTXF (Philadelphia channel 29). Because FOX has been unwilling to keep its signal on while the parties continue to negotiate, approximately 3 million Cablevision subscribers in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut are left without access to these broadcast channels, and the local news, sports, and other programming they offer. We ask that the FCC take immediate action to move the parties to a prompt resolution of this dispute and to minimize the impact of future disputes.

Unfortunately, the FOX and Cablevision dispute is not an isolated incident. Disputes between broadcasters and video providers appear to be increasing. Just last March, Cablevision and Disney/WABC-TV failed to reach an agreement and the WABC-TV signal was pulled from Cablevision. While that signal was eventually restored, it was only after Cablevision customers were without WABC-TV for approximately 20 hours, including the first 15 minutes of the Academy Awards broadcast. Upcoming retransmission consent negotiations between FOX and the DISH Network may put even more hardworking New Jerseyans at risk of losing television programming that they have come to expect and rely on for their local news and entertainment. We are deeply troubled that consumers are repeatedly being used as pawns in these programming disputes.

We ask that the FCC exercise all of its available authority to promptly resolve the FOX and Cablevision dispute. It is our understanding that the FCC suggested that FOX and Cablevision resolve their dispute through mediation, but FOX declined. We ask that you immediately invite representatives from both parties to meet with you and other FCC officials in order to reenergize and resolve these negotiations.

The FCC also needs to reexamine its existing regulations for retransmission consent negotiations. As you know, a petition to modify these rules has been pending before the FCC since March 2010. We urge the FCC to work diligently and expeditiously to consider the comments that have been filed on that petition and revise its rules. We ask that the FCC provide us with a response within five business days that outlines a firm schedule for the FCC’s action on the pending retransmission consent petition (MB Docket No. 10-71). Continued delay in reforming the retransmission consent process will only harm consumers in New Jersey and throughout the country.

Sincerely,

FRANK LAUTENBERG
ROBERT MENENDEZ

United States Senate

Comments

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  1. TuxthePenguin says:

    I understand the frustration, but how is this something that the government should get into?

    Company A was paying Company B $X for its services. Company B, after the contract term, says the price is now $X+1. Company A says no.

    That’s the cruz. How much that “+” is going to be. Why again do we need government intervention?

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      Can we please have an edit button? PLEASE? Cruz should be “crux”.

      • tedyc03 says:

        No, because the spelling mistake highlights how damn stupid you are, without the need for the reader to actually think about your argument.

        Thanks for helping us out though!

        • TuxthePenguin says:

          Yes, because my pinky hitting the “z” instead of the “x” should and does entirely invalidate my thoughts on this matter and show that my argument has no point.

          After all, maybe we should just allow the government to force us to sell our services to whomever they decide, and force us to buy some product because they say so… oh wait…

        • dolemite says:

          Super constructive there, great input on the discussion of the legislation of broadcast tv, and the side discussion of the need for an edit button!

        • craptastico says:

          it should be “damned stupid”, not damn stupid. I love when idiots try to correct others’ grammar

    • bigTrue says:

      Came here to say this. If Michigan’s government officials were getting involved in the fact some people overpaying for cable tv can’t get a few stations, they’d never get reelected in a couple weeks since we have a ton of real problems they can’t seem to fix.

    • ARP says:

      Technically, if they’re using the public airwaves, they have a right to intervene.

      But I have to agree. We should be preventing monolpolies and anti-competitive behaviors at the front end (see: Comcast/NBC sale), but this doesn’t seem to be that sort of case.

      • Reading Rainbow says:

        What this doesn’t mention is Cablevision intenet removing Fox shows from hulu during the dispute. That is EXACTLY why we need net neutrality – else 2 steps away from comcast blocking all other networks content unless you pay the “other network” fee.

        • ktetch says:

          Actually, you got it backwards. Cablevision didn’t block fox shows and fox.com, fox blacklisted the IP addresses of cablevision subscribers (and fox is a major partner of hulu, and part of the agreement is that shows are available on hulu if they’re available on the network website. Take out the website access, and the hulu access goes too.

    • Tim says:

      FCC regulations state that a cable system must carry the broadcast stations in which the cable system’s jurisdiction overlaps with the broadcast station’s strongest reception area.

      • proliance says:

        Unless things have changed, the must carry rule means that a cable company “must carry” a broadcast station if that stations says it wants to carried by the cable company. If the broadcast station is “must carried” then it is not eligible for any type of compensation from the cable company. You will see smaller stations like all those religious channels invoke the must carry rule.

        On the other hand, popular stations like a FOX affiliate will not invoke the must carry rule and the cable company is under no legal obligation to carry that channel. The cable company will carry them because of the large number of viewers they bring in. Thus the cable company benefits from carrying that station. But if a cable company picks up a broadcast channel on their own (no must carry invoked) then the cable company must compensate the broadcast channel. The compensation does not have be be monetary.

    • evnmorlo says:

      The delivery of gladiatorial circuses is very important to the government.

  2. DevsAdvocate says:

    Menendez, Lautenberg… the incompetency tag duo team. Solving problems where none exist.

    It’s a Jersey thing…

  3. teke367 says:

    I don’t see how FOX had that much leverage here. I’m in a Cablevision area in NJ, my only option is Cablevision or Direct TV. Fox is depending on me posting an installation fee to get Direct TV just for FOX programing? How many customers can Cablevision lose? Meanwhile, doesn’t FOX lose advertising dollars since their programming isn’t reaching as many sets?

    • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

      yes – it’s a lose-lose situation. if cablevision doesn’t pay more, they lose fox,, and lose subscribers.
      if fox pulls out, they diminish their viewing audience, and (theoretically, at least) they lose advertising dollars. (fewer viewers = less valuable airtime)

    • winnabago says:

      It could be good for the rooftop antenna manufacturers!

  4. Sword_Chucks says:

    Ok, I want congress to intervene and figure out what the FCC’s powers really are, because the FCC tries to do its thing but the DOJ and Congress screw that up. If you actually let the FCC use the power it was given back in 1934, then maybe they’d intervene and get things done

  5. hosehead says:

    Want to be useful, Frankie and Bobby? Open up this market like we did with telephones. Why is Cablevision my only choice in this area, where I do not have access to FiOS or DirecTV?

    • DarthCoven says:

      Why don’t you have access to DirecTV? Do you live in an apartment building/condo/co-op that won’t allow dishes? Do you not have a clear view of the southern sky?

      Odds are you not being able to get DirecTV has nothing to do with “opening up the market”

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      As for FiOS, well, you could have access to FiOS, if you’re in Verizon territory. All you need to do is for your town to go to Verizon with a big fat check to make it worthwhile to deploy in your town. Or, if it’s in your town, but not in your building, talk to your building’s mgmt about why not.

  6. H3ion says:

    Does Cablevision continue to carry Fox News? If so, why? Why not sever all relations with Fox until the dispute is rectified and cut their audience, thus cutting their advertising rates.

  7. jason in boston says:

    Over the air? Or are people just out of range. Also, it looks better. Less compression compared to cable.

  8. Nick says:

    Time to stop making the customers pay for the squabbling. If the full cable line-up is not available due to a dispute then a refund should be given to the customers for the period of time that it is not available. The loss will be split by the companies involved in the dispute.

  9. framitz says:

    I guess these politicians have nothing better to do?
    This is a business issue. If the customers are upset they should speak with their wallets.

    I once lived in a place where there were two cable companies to choose from because of overlapping service areas. I have never had better service. If one company didn’t provide the service and price we wanted we would just switch to the other company. After doing this several times one of the two offered $5.00 a month for all available services for 6 months. I stuck with them until I moved away (they never did raise the price for 3 years).

    The other time I had excellent services was when a company called Cross Country Wireless came to our area. Cross Country provided TV service via microwave using a small disk. The minute I saw their flyer I signed up. The service was less expensive and of higher quality. Once around 10 in the evening during heavy rain our signal dropped out. I called and within the hour our service was back up. The tech went on our roof and replaced a wet pre-amp during the storm… Service just doesn’t get any better than that. Again it was competition that got us the great service.

    We need more competition in cable services.

  10. samonela says:

    A sad revelation of one of our country’s true priorities.

    Television access is limited so two Senators step in.

    Facepalming like I’ve never facepalmed before.

  11. DanKelley98 says:

    In as much as I hate cable companies, who seem to be willing to screw their customers whenever…I gotta think that the broadcast companies, such as Fox, lose when their signal…which is seen free in the cable areas over-the-air (by people with antennas on their roofs), will feel a pinch in ad revenue when their broadcasts can’t be seen by the cable subscribers in their market.

    Its the battle of the over-inflated egos.

  12. ArmitageID says:

    Hmm…I think senators should stay out of it. It would be against the free market if the FCC mandated that Fox take a certain amount from Cablevision. If Cablevision doesn’t want to pay, then they don’t get the programming. I’m sure there are plenty of other local news stations in the area. Once Cablevision starts loosing subscribers since they no longer have that channel, they might go back to the negotiating table.

    On a side note, I wouldn’t care if I didn’t have Fox. However, that’s just me.

    • Megalomania says:

      I only think it’s bullshit because Cablevision’s customers pay them for specific channels. If Cablevision can’t guarantee that they will get those channels, they should not be offering them, or they should have the content owners guarantee that they will not pull them until X date or without a month’s notice so that they can reduce the billing to their customers.

  13. meechybee says:

    It’s amazing that they let the Sirius XM merger stagnate for three years yet these squabbles and blackouts have happened more than a few times with no penalties.

  14. Torchwood says:

    That’s right, folks. It’s a LIFE OR DEATH situation that we cannot watch House or the baseball playoffs. People were DYING because they missed the first 15 minutes of the Academy Awards. After all, there were RIOTS on the streets when the analog signal was turned off last year.

    Oh wait…..

    It’s only TeeVee….. nevermind…..

    • RvLeshrac says:

      It has nothing to do with this specific argument, and everything to do with the fact that media companies do these kinds of things with complete disregard for how it affects consumers. If the FCC continues to allow this, there will eventually be swaths of the country where access to timely news broadcasts is cut off at corporate whims.

      That’s fine most of the time, but what happens when an EBS alert about a hurricane, earthquake, or volcano evacuation fails to proc because the local media conglomerates were in a payment dispute?

      • DevsAdvocate says:

        Yo brah, they have things called, like, you know… radios. The intertubes. Cell phones. Regular phones. Hell, even if a few channels are blacked out, you’ll still get EBS messages through other channels brah.

  15. LTS! says:

    This is one way to fight the obesity problem in the United States. Simply let the companies screw each other into the ground while Americans go outside and get the much deserved exercise they need.

    There is no harm in not receiving television.

  16. RvLeshrac says:

    And this is precisely why the FCC needs to force unbundling and a-la-carte carriage.

  17. dreamfish says:

    “… the oft-maligned state of New Jersey.”

    For those of us not in the know, what has NJ done to deserve this reputation?

    • DevsAdvocate says:

      Because we’re stupid in NJ… that’s why. (I’m being serious)

      • webweazel says:

        Can’t agree with you on that one. It’s not the PEOPLE who are stupid it’s other things. I find that NJites are very intelligent on the whole. (This is SOUTH Jersey I speak of. North Jersey is just a suburb of New York.)
        South NJ has great schools, great food everywhere, the drivers are actually courteous, people are efficient at their jobs, the police are efficient and helpful, public transportation is cheap and available almost everywhere. There is farmland (Jersey tomatoes!) and beaches with boardwalks and big cities nearby that you can get to in an hour or less. It’s a wonderful place to be.
        That said, the car insurance/inspections are a horrendous, expensive, and time consuming horror, property taxes are through the roof, most laws are goofy and becoming nanny-state-ish, and the government is basically a 3 ring circus without the makeup, and always has been.
        Part of this is the fact of the state making moronic laws to reel in some of the New York-wannabee douchebags in the North, all the while pissing off the people in the South who don’t have the problem that the stupid law is addressing, causing them undue red tape to wade through to get anything done. The best thing that could happen is to cut off the state at Trenton, and give that half to NY along with their idiot laws. NJ doesn’t need it anymore.
        What do you think?

  18. Blious says:

    It won’t matter. Fox won’t go near arbitration knowing that if they did, they wouldn’t get their laughably high demands.