Cablevision-Fox feud drags on, leaving Giants fans in the lurch
Hey, New York, are you ready for some football? Well, too bad.
Cablevision subscribers who want to see the New York Giants battle the Detroit Lions are scrambling to find alternatives to sitting on their couch as the dispute between the cable company and News Corp.'s Fox Broadcasting continues to drag on and deprive consumers of key channels in the New York City region.
Fox pulled its signals from Cablevision Systems Corp. on Friday night after it was unable to reach a new deal with the distribution company for carriage of its New York City TV stations WNYW and WWOR and the Fox station WTXF Philadephia, which is carried in Cablevision homes in certain parts of New Jersey. There are also a handful of smaller Fox-owned cable networks (but not Fox News) caught up in the spat, but the big issue is deals for the stations.
Cablevision has more than 3 million subscribers, primarily in the New York City region, including Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and Westchester County. It also has subscribers in Connecticut and New Jersey, some of whom are missing the Philadelphia Eagles game.
Both sides have been in on-again, off-again negotiations over the last two days with little headway being made, and each continues to criticize the other. In the meantime, politicians are weighing in. Some are demanding that the two restore the channels while they continue to negotiate so consumers are not held hostage. Others counter that it is a business dispute that the government has no part in.
So far, the Federal Communications Commission has steered clear other than to encourage the two to restore the channels and work out a deal either through negotiations or third-party arbitration. There is even debate between the two companies as to whether the FCC has the right to intervene. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said he would introduce legislation to give the regulatory agency a role in these sorts of disputes.
Fox was heavily criticized by media activists on Saturday for blocking Cablevision subscribers who also got their Internet service from the cable operator from Fox-owned websites and Fox programming on Hulu, which is co-owned by Fox parent News Corp. Since the sites are not part of the dispute, Fox was seen as being vindictive. Soon after the backlash started, Fox indicated that the Internet service would be restored.
Blocking websites is "totally out of bounds in a dispute like this," said Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a media watchdog group. "Consumers should not have their access to Web content threatened because a giant media company has a dispute over cable programming carriage."
-- Joe Flint
Photo: Eli Manning of the New York Giants. Credit: Chris McGrath / Getty Images