Cablevision Takes Meredith to Task at FCC

WASHINGTON — Cablevision Systems’ fight with Meredith Broadcasting in Hartford, Conn., has opened two new fronts in St. Louis and the nation’s capital.

At issue for Cablevision is an ongoing retransmissionconsent impasse over carriage of Meredith’s CBS affiliate WFSB in Hartford. Cablevision escalated the fight last week, challenging Meredith’s bid to purchase KMOV-TV in St. Louis, a deal that was a side effect of KMOV owner Gannett’s $2.2 billion purchase of Belo.

The Bethpage, N.Y.-based cable operator asked the Federal Communications Commission to deny the KMOV acquisition and to look into whether Meredith was fit to own any TV stations. Meredith countered that Cablevision wasn’t telling the truth.

Cablevision said it’s willing to pay Meredith to carry WFSB on its systems in Litchfield and New Haven counties — part of the Waterbury- Hartford-New Haven DMA — but it is unwilling to pay for the station in Fairfield County, Conn., a county in the New York market served by WCBS-TV. Meredith wants Cablevision to pay to carry the channel across the state, and has made WFSB unavailable to the MSO throughout Connecticut, including areas where WCBS is unavailable.

“Meredith Corp. is violating its public-interest obligations with its CBS affiliate in Connecticut by blacking out CBS programming completely in one part of the state in order to reap fees in another part of the state where consumers already pay for another local CBS affiliate,” Cablevision told the FCC. “Meredith is withholding WFSB’s programming from Cablevision subscribers in the Hartford-New Haven DMA as a negotiating strategy to gain paid carriage on additional Cablevision systems.”

Cablevision called that “an unprecedented negotiating tactic that is harming the consumers Meredith pledged to serve, and these actions portend Meredith’s unwillingness to serve the public interest in the St. Louis market.”

Meredith fired back, saying “Cablevision’s assertions are untrue and reflect its lack of understanding of Connecticut television viewers.”

“Other subscription-television operators recognize the value of WFSB local programming and have entered into agreements to compensate us accordingly,” Meredith said. “However, Cablevision has refused to even negotiate, and is revealing its true colors by wasting time with … a nuisance filing in the St. Louis market, a jurisdiction where it doesn’t even serve any viewers.”

Meredith said it remained ready to negotiate “in good faith” with Cablevision.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.