Fox & Cablevision Accuse Each Other of ‘Bad Faith’ Negotiations

FCC has asked both companies to submit evidence they have been conducting retransmission talks fairly

Last Updated: October 25, 2010 @ 5:52 PM

Even with the very real threat of government intervention looming — not to mention the World Series — Fox and Cablevision remain far apart on a retransmission deal.

The two companies have been asked to show the Federal Communications Commission by end of day Monday that they’ve been negotiating in good faith — and the result has been with more finger pointing.

Cablevision said in a statement early Monday that it had responded to FCC’s request by arguing that Fox has done just the opposite.

In asking the commission to force Fox to submit to binding arbitration, Cablevision argued that the broadcaster had only offered “take it or leave it” rates for Fox5. It also claimed that News Corp. deliberately timed the deadline to black out its broadcast networks so that Cablevision customers couldn’t access key baseball games.

Cablevision also said it had made numerous proposals of increasing in value since May, including four new proposals from Oct. 15 to 17. But the cable provider claims News Corp. continues to demand more for Fox 5 than Cablevision pays all of the other broadcast stations combined.

Fox said vigorously denied the cable company’s claims in its own letter to the FCC. It said that Cablevision has been using the negotiations as a ploy to pressure congress to intercede.  Fox has adamently opposed any government mediation, saying the process would unfairly favor Cablevision.

Because it does not want to encourage the FCC to step into the debate, Fox declined to show evidence that Cablevision had acted in "bad faith." Instead it hoped to continue negotiations without federal involvement.

“From the genesis of our talks with Cablevision, Fox has negotiated in good faith. We have never made any “take it or leave it” demands, nor are we asking for $150 million in fees,” Fox said in a statement. “For Cablevision to still be making those claims is yet another example of their ploy to secure an advantage through government intervention.”

Fox also charges that Cablevision asked to have its own retransmission deal postponed until after the company worked out arrangements with other networks and established market value. Yet the cable company has refused to honor similar terms to the ones News Corp. established with other providers, Fox says in its letter.

In the meantime, though, the clock is ticking and without a deal in place some 3 million New York area Cablevision subscribers will miss the first game of the World Series on Wednesday night. 

If the companies fail to meet the FCC's criteria, it could be moved to act. The agency has been reticent to get involved in the past. The only previous time the FCC injected itself into a retransmission dispute was in 2001 when it found that Echostar [now Dish Network] hadn’t engaged in “good faith” negotiations and ordered it to negotiate in good faith. The agency could also levy fines.