Blumenthal, Murphy Urge WFSB, Cablevision To Put Connecticut Consumers First By Settling Negotiations To End Blackouts

(Washington, DC) – In a letter to Stephen Lacy, President and CEO of Meredith Corporation, which owns WFSB, and James Dolan, President and CEO of Cablevision, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) today urged the network and cable company to put Connecticut consumers first by settling contract negotiations that have led to partial blackouts of CBS in Fairfield County, and complete blackouts in Litchfield and New Haven Counties. Full text of the letter is below.

January 10, 2014

Mr. Stephen M. Lacy
Chairman, President and CEO
Meredith Corporation
1716 Locust Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50309-3023

Mr. James L. Dolan
President and CEO
Cablevision Systems Corporation
1111 Stewart Avenue
Bethpage, New York 11714-3581

Dear Mr. Dolan and Mr. Lacy:

We write regarding the recent retransmission consent dispute between your companies, which has resulted in a partial blackout of WFSB/CBS programming for Cablevision customers in Fairfield County, and a complete blackout for Cablevision customers in Litchfield and New Haven Counties.

While we respect the private negotiations being conducted by Cablevision and WFSB and make no representations as to the merits of either side’s position, we believe that the current impasse does a disservice to Connecticut families and we urge you to negotiate in good faith to bring an end to this blackout.

Broadcasters play a fundamental role throughout our country by educating and informing our citizens and enriching the fabric of our communities. WFSB deserves to be fairly compensated for its content under law. Yet, unlike other companies in this industry, WFSB is also the public trustee of the spectrum it uses to broadcast. In return for that spectrum, you have a responsibility to serve the public interest of your communities. Until an agreement can be reached with Cablevision, we urge WFSB to commit to returning local programming that includes emergency alerts, local news and weather information, as well as local sporting events, such as this weekend’s Patriots playoff game.

Also, although we understand that Cablevision is reluctant to pay twice for the same programming, many Connecticut consumers understandably value Connecticut-based journalism and broadcasting. The public interest is best served by returning carriage of WFSB to all Connecticut residents as early as possible. In the meantime, we ask that Cablevision commit to refund any Litchfield and New Haven County subscribers, who may request a portion of their monthly bill commensurate with WFSB’s value.

While we understand there are many reasons that lead to programming blackouts, and that each negotiation is unique, we believe blackouts are harmful for consumers. Whether they are a result of a contract dispute, or some other disagreement, blackouts only serve to put the consumer in the middle of a dispute between two businesses. Both companies must serve their customers by negotiating a resolution to this impasse.

Sincerely,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
United States Senate

CHRISTOPHER S. MURPHY
United States Senate