Cablevision CEO Jim Dolan wants sitdown with News Corp. at FCC headquarters
Cablevision Chief Executive Jim Dolan will have his corporate plane ready to fly from Long Island to Washington, D.C., to pop in on Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and settle his company's differences with News Corp.'s Fox Broadcasting.
At issue is a new deal for Cablevision to carry Fox's TV stations in New York and Philadelphia. Fox pulled its signals out of roughly 3 million Cablevision homes almost two weeks ago, and negotiations are at a standstill.
Caught in the middle are Cablevision subscribers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Not only will they miss Tuesday night's "Rocky Horror Picture Show"" episode of "Glee," but if a deal isn't reached by Wednesday night, they'll miss Game 1 of the World Series between the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants.
In a letter to Genachowski, Dolan said he is ready to be in Genachowski's office on Wednesday and meet with News Corp. Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey so the three can hammer out a deal.
"Based on the negotiations to date, I can assure you that only with your assistance in bringing the parties together in your office will productive, good faith talks occur." Dolan added that he will come ready "with new, constructive offers, prepared to reach agreement tomorrow."
News Corp.and Fox have indicated little desire to have the FCC or any third-party mediator get involved in the talks between the companies, and that is unlikely to change now.
In a statement in response to Dolan's letter, A Fox spokesman said the company "once again calls on Cablevision to return to the bargaining table and resume constructive negotiations." In other words, no one is fueling up the News Corp. private plane for Chase Carey to go to Washington.
An FCC official didn't seem all that excited by Dolan's offer to come to a visit. "It is encouraging that Cablevision has a new 'constructive offer," the official said. "But, the official added, "they should spend less time writing publicity-seeking letters to the FCC and more time at the negotiating table ... stop the stunts and start negotiating."
While the FCC does not have the clout to get involved in disputes between programmers and distributors, it has asked both companies to provide details of their talks so it can determine if there are "good faith" negotiations going on. Cablevision and Fox responded to that request on Monday with detailed versions of their negotiations with each pointing the finger at the other as being the culprit making talks difficult.
Dolan's letter to Genachowski is just the latest tomato lobbed at News Corp. Both sides have been spending more time taking shots at each other and lobbying politicians than they have trying to cut a deal. Earlier Tuesday, Fox accused Cablevision of telling its subscribers how to access the network's content illegally via the Internet and sent the cable operator a cease and desist letter.
"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.
Cablevision, citing how Fox had briefly blocked Cablevision subscribers from accessing certain websites that carried Fox content, said the letter was an "obvious tactic" from News Corp. to "shift focus away from their pulling the plug on 3 million New York households."
“This is an obvious tactic from News Corp, which blocked the Internet, to shift focus away from their pulling the plug on 3 million New York households. Fox should cease and desist its World Series blackout, put its programming back on Cablevision and agree to binding arbitration.”
— Joe Flint
Photos: Top: Cablevision's Jim Dolan. Credit: Evan Agostini/Getty Images. Bottom: FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. Credit:Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times.
For the record this post was updated to include the FCC's response to Cablevision's letter.