Cablevision Files Bad Faith Complaint Against WFSB

Cablevision Systems’ ongoing retransmission consent battle with broadcaster WFSB has entered a new stage with the cable company filing a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, accusing the station of refusing to negotiate in good faith.

This is the second attempt by the cable operator to receive FCC relief in the retrans impasse. Earlier in the month it filed documents with the FCC to block WFSB parent Meredith Corp.’s purchase of St. Louis TV station, KMOV-TV, an off-shoot of station-owner Gannett’s $2.2 billion purchase of Belo Corp.

Connecticut-based CBS affiliate WFSB went dark to Cablevision subscribers in Litchfield and New Haven counties on Jan. 3. Cablevision clams the broadcaster was demanding it carry the station in areas in the state outside of the two counties. The vast majority of Cablevision’s Connecticut customers watch CBS programming on New York affiliate WCBS.

 “The FCC should direct Meredith Corporation to immediately cease its bad faith negotiation practices and separate the negotiations for carriage of WFSB in Litchfield and New Haven Counties from those regarding carriage in Fairfield County where there is already another CBS station,” Cablevision said in a statement. “This would lead to an agreement to return CBS programming to Cablevision customers in Litchfield and New Haven Counties.”

Cablevision claims Meredith has rejected its offers to pay its asking price for the retransmission of its WFSB Channel 3 CBS in Litchfield and New Haven Counties.  Instead, the operator claims, the station has insisted that any deal extend to Fairfield County, currently serviced by WCBS.

In a statement, Meredith called the Cablevision suit a "nuisance."

"For the third time in a little over a week, Cablevision is choosing to waste its customers’ money by filing a nuisance complaint or lawsuit," said Meredith  Chief Communications Officer Art Slusark. "For what Cablevision is paying its high-priced New York and D.C. lawyers, Cablevision could instead be providing all of its Connecticut customers with WFSB’s award-winning local news and CBS primetime and sports programming.

"It is Cablevision that is acting in bad faith. Earlier this week, Meredith made a compelling offer that would enable Cablevision to immediately return WFSB to its customers. However, unlike other subscription television providers in the area, Cablevision refuses to compensate Meredith fair market value for carriage of WFSB’s signal to all of its Connecticut customers."

-- B&C's John Eggerton  contributed to this report