Nothing is going to come between City Councilmember Lew Fidler and “Desperate Housewives” — especially Cablevision.
Still fuming from the WABC–Cablevision fiasco of two weeks ago that caused southern Brooklynites to miss Academy Awards’ slam-bang opening number, Fidler said he’s putting forward two City Council resolutions he hopes will change how cable companies haggle with networks in their continuing price war.
Every 10 years, cable companies re-negotiate their contracts with television networks. While the negotiations were supposed to take place in 2008, they were postponed to this year, explained Fidler, who said that the average viewer is the one who misses out when two titans like these clash over pricing.
“Over the last number of months, myself and other viewers have gotten increasingly pissed off with how the cable industry is running,” Fidler said. “They seem to hold viewers in a low regard. We’re being held hostage.”
To Fidler, the final straw was missing the first 20 minutes of the Oscars broadcast. WABC went dark on Cablevision at midnight the night before because Walt Disney Co., which owns the station, was trying to buck the trend and change a long-standing custom where cable providers didn’t have to pay anything for traditionally broadcasted channels.
These pricing wars have got to stop, said Fidler, who added that a similar pricing war caused The Food Network and HGTV to wink out on Jan. 1, to the chagrin of Cablevision customers — and Fidler’s wife.
“I wanted to watch the Oscars,” he said. “I was also looking forward to watching my ‘Desperate Housewives.’ Next week it will be ESPN. I’ll be apoplectic by then.”
“If they keep these fights up, the only thing that’s going to happen is that our cable rates are going to go up,” he said. adding that his monthly cable bill is well over $150 a month.
In his resolutions, Fidler calls upon the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to pass a regulation that would ensure that any television company that broadcasts on the airwaves — like WABC or any other network television channel — cannot charge a cable provider any more than the cost of linking the channel up to the cable system.
If the FCC ruled this way, it would have immediately put the kibosh on the WABC/Cablevision fight, he said.
Fidler also wants the City Council to hold a hearing to figure out how to streamline franchise cable companies.
Councilmember Mark Weprin, who sits on the Council Subcommittee on Franchises, has shown an interest in holding a hearing, Fidler said.
A spokesperson for Cablevision said they haven’t been contacted about the resolution.