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Fox, Cablevision Step Up Direct Appeals To Viewers

Fox and Cablevision were back in talks Monday, according to spokespeople for both sides, but had no resolution, according to Fox. Both sides were also talking directly to their respective constituents, and the rhetoric aimed in that direction hardly boded well for a resolution.

Using the terms "extort" and "unreasonable," and "unfair," Cablevision's "updated" Monday on-screen message for subs tuning into what have been Fox channels in New York (WNYW and WWOR), says News Corp. has "acted in bad faith."

Cablevision's message emphasizes calls from some in Washington for binding arbitration and to keep the
channels on the cable system. "We believe News Corp, has acted in bad faith, claiming publicly to be willing to compromise, while privately continuing to make the same take-it-or-leave-it demands," the company told viewers.

If Fox were not bargaining in good faith, that would be grounds for an FCC complaint since the retrans law requires good-faith bargaining.

Lew Leone, VP and GM of both Fox stations, saw it quite differently. In "open letters" to viewers of both stations on Sunday, he said that Cablevision was looking for special treatment "instead of negotiating like a responsible business."

Leone said the arbitration was all about getting politicians to intervene instead. He also indicated that Cablevision has offered Fox less than 30 cents per sub. "Cablevision has stated that they intend to provide you with a rebate. But if the rebate is equal to what they offered Fox for our stations, you can look forward to a credit of less than 30 cents on your next bill."

Cablevision, meanwhile, said in its on-screen message that Fox, by contrast, was asking "more than for CBS, NBC, ABC and Univision combined."

Both sides asked subs/viewers to register their feelings with the other side."You might consider letting Cablevision know that you believe your right to see the NFL on Fox, the Major League Baseball National League Championship Series and World Series, Glee, House and all the other shows you love are worth more than a penny a day," Leone said.

"There is something you can do to help bring this situation to a conclusion," said Cablevision. "Tell News Corp. to put Fox 5 back on the air, and to keep you out of the negotiations."

An FCC spokesperson said Monday the commission would keep telling Cablevision subs of their option to switch services or change to over-the-air reception so long as the impasse remains.

"We are continuing to urge the parties to reach a quick resolution for consumers," said Jen Howard, an FCC spokeswoman. "Until this matter is resolved, the FCC will continue to educate consumers about all of their options."

The FCC posted an online advisory on what to do if the Fox/Cablevision retrans fight meant signal loss, which it has for subs in New York and Philly systems.