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City Council to Plot Future Crackdowns on Cable Blackouts

By Jess Wisloski | August 3, 2013 4:30pm
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NEW YORK CITY — Television sets across New York City went dark on Friday at 5 p.m...if they happened to be tuned to a CBS station.

The mammoth television service provider dropped access to CBS and Showtime in New York and several other cities across in the nation, including Los Angeles, Dallas, and others, leaving viewers without programming in response to a war over fees Time Warner must pay the network to air its shows, the AP reported.

As New Yorkers with Time Warner entered nearly a day without the CBS channels, elected officials turned up the volume on efforts to end the blackout, and prevent such disputes from affecting customers in the future.

"Television service should not be dependent on the whims of a bitter corporate stand-off,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn, as she announced a joint oversight hearing of two city council committees to be held Thursday. 

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Time Warner Cable

“Three million New Yorkers subscribe to Time Warner Cable and expect access to each and every channel they pay for. I urge Time Warner Cable and CBS to resolve this dispute as quickly as possible and to end the blackout now," she said.

The Zoning and Franchises committee, as well as the Consumer Affairs committee will be having a hearing in council chambers Thursday at 10 a.m., Quinn said, to tackle the issue of service blackouts, and invited members of the public to speak out at the hearing.

In the meantime, the cable operator, on the blue screen that took the place of CBS 2 in New York, suggested subscribers use an antenna to watch CBS for free over the airwaves or log on to cbs.com, as they worked out a solution. Time Warner, which posted a YouTube video about the dispute, accused CBS of making an "outrageous demand" for the programs it provided in the televised print statement and on their site, and urged customers to contact CBS at 212-975-4321 or online.

CBS, which its own ad on YouTube Saturday about the blackout, blamed the cable operator of negotiating in a "combative and non-productive spirit, indulging in pointless brinksmanship and distorted public positioning — such as the fictional and ridiculous 600 percent increase CBS supposedly demanded — while maintaining antiquated positions no longer held by any other programming distributor in the business" in a statement Friday and asked viewers to call 1-800-TW-Cable to demand services resume.