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FCC Jumps Into Fox, Cablevision Standoff

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With no resolution in sight between Fox and Cablevision, The Federal Communications Commission Friday (Oct. 22) requested that the companies prove that they are negotiating in good faith. The companies have until Monday (Oct. 25) to respond.

News Corp. and Cablevision seem no closer to an agreement than they did on Saturday, when Fox stations in New York and Philadelphia and a handful of Fox cable channels went dark on the cable system, affecting 3 million Cablevision subscribers. Since then, the press releases have been flying from the two companies, public interest organizations, regulators and politicians. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) has drafted new legislation to revise the retransmission consent rules.

In the letter to News Corp. and Cablevision, William Lake, media bureau chief for the FCC wrote: "We are troubled, as the [FCC] chairman said, 'that Cablevision and Fox are spending more time attacking each other through ads and lobbyists than sitting down at the negotiating table.'"

Lake asked the companies to describe what has transpired since negotiations began and detail the efforts each took to end the impasse. "If you are aware of any conduct by the other side that you believe violates the good faith requirement, please so indicate and provide supporting evidence," Lake wrote.

Cablevision, which has been calling for binding arbitration, issued a statement welcoming the FCC's intervention. "Whether through FCC action, binding arbitration or any other means, the time has come for News Corp. to end the Fox blackout of 3 million Cablevision households," Charles Schueler, evp of communications for Cablevision said.

Fox said it would comply with the FCC's request.