After CBS blackout, City Council to examine dispute with Time Warner Cable

A screenshot of a CBS video announcing Time Warner Cable has dropped the channel amid contract disputes.  Credit: CBS/YouTube
A screenshot of a CBS video announcing Time Warner has dropped the channel amid contract disputes.
Credit: CBS/YouTube

As Time Warner Cable’s blackout of CBS enters its third day, the City Council is gearing up for an oversight hearing to hold officials accountable for the contract dispute.

After several short-term contract extensions and failed negotiations the past several weeks, Time Warner removed channels owned by CBS from its lineup Friday afternoon.

The City Council will hold a joint oversight hearing at City Hall Thursday to examine what led to the CBS blackout, which affects eight cities and roughly three million subscribers in New York.

“Television service should not be dependent on the whims of a bitter corporate stand-off,” Speaker Christine Quinn said in a statement.

Consumer Affairs Committee Chair Daniel Garodnick said officials should not subject customers to threats of rising costs from “do-or-die” negotiations.

“A new framework is needed to prevent interruption of the service that cable customers are paying for,” said Garodnick in a statement.

Time Warner officials said CBS has made “outrageous” and “unreasonable” demands in contract talks.

“It is often said that these disputes are just two giant corporations fighting over money,” Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt said in a letter to customers Friday. “But the skyrocketing price of programing has a direct impact on your monthly cable bill.”

CBS officials said they were “eager” to make an agreement, but they still seek “fair compensation.”

“We will not give up our channel position or any other asset by which our viewers identify us,” CBS said in a statement on the blackout.

Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises Chair Mark Weprin stressed the blackout hurts consumers.

“Our oversight hearing will provide the Council with an opportunity to hold both parties accountable for their irresponsible behavior,” Weprin said in a statement.

Before the blackout began, Quinn also sent a letter urging both companies to come to an agreement without cutting off service.

The City Council Committee on Consumer Affairs and the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee will hold the joint hearing Thursday. Members of the public are encouraged to submit testimony at the hearing, which will be held at 10 a.m.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders


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