Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fox Could Be Blacked Out In Dispute

Two of the nation's greediest media giants are at loggerheads over fee transmissions and no matter who wins the public will pay dearly. Unless a deal is struck with News midnight New Year's Eve, Time Warner Cable could drop all Fox programming.

At the moment, the dispute affects only Time Warner subscribers. Waiting in the wings how this plays out is NBC, ABC and CBS.

I'm a TWC subscriber and pay $82.67/mo for cable and high-speed internet service. That's 7% of my net income and eats up most of my budget for fun and games.

Los Angeles Times reporter Joe Flint writes industry insiders believe Fox is asking TWC to pay a fee of $1 per subscriber to transmit its station affiliates. The cable company has more than 1 million customers in its Southern California region. The highest fee is $4 charged by ESPN. The Times:

Fox says on a website set up to argue its side of the dispute that the fee it's seeking is reasonable. "Fox attracts more viewers than the five most expensive cable networks combined (ESPN, TNT, USA, ESPN2 and NFL Net)," the site proclaims.

Congress created the conflict by passing a law in 1992  giving broadcasters the right to seek payment from cable operators to retransmit station signals.

The cable industry contends that because TV stations broadcast over the air for free, it shouldn't pay to retransmit their signals over cable lines. Broadcasters counter that most consumers wouldn't even subscribe to cable if local channels weren't in the package.

What really pisses me off as a consumer is Rupert Murdoch's henchmen telling me to drop Time Warner and switch to satellite broadcasters DirecTV and Dish Network or phone company Verizon's Fios so I don't miss their programming.. That's a choice with a gun pointed at my head. This ain't my fight, guys. It's yours.

"This isn't good public relations for either company," warned Andy Donchin, director of media investments for advertising firm Carat, whose clients include Radio Shack and Papa John's International Inc. "Ultimately, whatever agreement they come to, the consumer will pay for it."

Fact is, Fox is probably fourth in my TV selection choices. During the NFL season, I regularly view the games and would be crushed not to continue watching. Same goes for its package of regional college football games and the upcoming Fiesta Bowl. I would miss Fox Cable News if for nothing else wouldn't have anything to shout at. I could care less not watching "American Idol" and can always find "24" through Netflix.

 (Author's Note: I could be wrong but I believe the dispute involves all Fox stations carried by Time Warner and not just those in Southern California.)

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