John Kerry weighs in on News Corp.-Time Warner Cable feud
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) doesn't want Time Warner Cable and News Corp.'s feud messing up everyone's New Year's Day football plans.
In a letter to News Corp. President Chase Carey and Time Warner Cable Chairman and Chief Executive Glenn Britt, Kerry encouraged them to resolve their spat by New Year's Day so viewership of the big college football games aren't disrupted.
"We do not want consumers waking up on the first day of the new year wanting to watch football and instead finding that they have to take a trip to the electronics store to purchase a digital receiver in the hope that they receive a clear over-the-air signal," he said in his letter. Kerry is chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communication, Technology, and the Internet -- which means his letter will actually be read by the two companies.
At issue are so-called retransmission consent fees that News Corp. wants Time Warner Cable to pay to continue carrying its Fox TV stations. The cost is said to be about $1 per subscriber, per month. Both companies have launched ad campaigns blaming the other for hardball negotiations and trying to gouge consumers.
While he acknowledged that this was a private negotiation, Kerry also let the two companies know that anything that would disrupt the New Year's Day tradition of football watching would probably not sit too well with the country or on Capitol Hill.
He wrote: "If both parties conclude that the best alternative to a negotiated agreement is to have screens go dark for consumers, then they will have neglected the core interests of the millions of households that subscribe to Time Warner Cable in affected markets. As leaders of major companies that are FCC licensees and are obligated to serve the public interest, I hope and expect that you will resolve this matter consistent with those obligations."
In a statement, Fox said, "For months, Fox has been negotiating in good faith with Time Warner Cable. Our position in these negotiations is entirely reasonable -- we are simply asking for fair compensation for the impressive value our Fox programming offers. We will continue to actively negotiate with Time Warner Cable in hopes of reaching a fair agreement."
Time Warner Cable said, "Fox is in control of whether our customers will be able to continue to view programming after the agreement expires. We hope Fox won’t punish our customers by taking their programming away while we try to reach an agreement."
It's a game of chicken. We'll see who blinks first.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: Sen. John Kerry. Credit: Henning Bagger / EPA