John Kerry on ABC-Cablevision Fight: ‘Consumers Are Collateral Damage’

The senator has been trying to put pressure on ABC and Cablevision to come to an agreement

Last Updated: March 10, 2010 @ 2:50 PM

As he did during the Fox-Time Warner Cable scuffle, John Kerry has been trying to put pressure on ABC and Cablevision to come to an agreement in their dispute over retransmission fees. So far it hasn’t worked, as Disney made good on its threat early Sunday, pulling ABC from Cablevision’s 3.1 million New York-area subscribers.

Kerry, senator of the Senate Commerce Committee’s telecom panel, released this statement on Sunday, urging the sides to let the FCC or an arbiter help:

“Early this morning and just ahead of the Oscars, ABC pulled its channel from Cablevision customers because the two companies cannot agree on the value of the signal. It’s neither my place nor my goal to pick sides in this dispute, my concern as Chairman of the Communications Subcommittee is that this morning three million households, including many who will not know where to get a digital receiver today or how to install it, will find that a service they pay for monthly is not delivering what was promised.

What bothers me is that these consumers are collateral damage in a fight between two companies.  I strongly urge these two companies to sit down and find a way for the signal to be restored today and negotiate in good faith.  If a true impasse is reached, then I urge the parties to seek the assistance of the FCC to resolve it or enter into arbitration.

When pulling a signal becomes the nuclear option in negotiation, it inflicts collateral damage on consumers who pay their bills and have done nothing wrong. Someone needs to be speaking up for them in this dispute and those like them, and make no mistake, this is the latest example of consumers getting caught in the middle because the high stakes incentives created in these negotiations are not working for the average customer who just expects their programming to be there when they want it.”

Here’s the American Cable Association’s official take on the breakdown:

"Disney’s decision early Sunday to pull its ABC signal from 3 million Cablevision System Corp. cable customers in the New York City area underscores the American Cable Association’s long-standing policy position that the federal retransmission consent regime is a badly broken system that permits signal pulling and flagrant price discrimination against smaller cable companies that consumers should not be forced to tolerate. ACA urges the Federal Communications Commission to heed the calls of members of Congress and take every action now to restore the ABC signal while the parties continue to engage in good faith negotiations, and then to focus on addressing the underlying problems with the broadcast carriage rules and regulations in order to avoid these problems from happening in the future."

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WABC-Cablevision Battle Goes Nuclear: Signal Pulled