The battle between Time Warner Cable (TWC) and News Corporation, which could take all Fox programming off TWC systems as of New Year’s Day, has drawn the attention of Senator John Kerry (D-MA), who is standing up for the rights of football fans. He doesn’t want them to be without their New Year’s Day bowl games.
Kerry, Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, sent a letter to both Fox Television and TWC urging for a swift resolution to current negotiations in order to stop consumers, and football fans, from finding blank screens instead of college bowl games on January 1st.
“Fox and Time Warner need to strike a deal – millions of football fans are depending on it,” said Kerry. “Having screens go dark because two parties couldn’t come together in time is no solution. New Year’s Day and football are synonymous in households across the nation. Private industry negotiations cannot disrupt a fundamental American tradition,” the Senator added.
Here is the letter Kerry sent to the two sides in the TV rights battle:
Mr. Chase Carey
President and Chief Operating Officer
1211 Avenue of Americas
New York, New York 10036
Mr. Glenn Britt
Chairman and CEO
Time Warner Cable
60 Columbus Circle
NY, NY 10023
I am aware that FOX and Time Warner Cable have been involved for some time in negotiations regarding the terms of carriage for FOX-owned broadcast television stations, as well as FOX-owned cable channels.
These are private negotiations, and I hope that the parties reach a mutually acceptable resolution before the existing agreement expires on December 31. If you fail to do so, I suggest that FOX allow Time Warner Cable to continue transmitting programming through the College Bowl season either under current terms and conditions or under terms and conditions that will be retroactively applied once an agreement is reached, or under some third option. I also suggest that both parties strongly consider entering arbitration rather than having consumers lose access to programming.
If I understand correctly, at midnight on December 31, 2009, FOX content may be removed from cable systems Time Warner Cable owns. This means that, in January, millions of Time Warner Cable customers around the country could lose access to the Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl, as well as NFL playoff games. Prior to the digital transition, many consumers were able to put up rabbit ear antennas to receive programming. However, digital receivers are more expensive and complex to use. We do not want consumers waking up on the first day of the New Year wanting to watch football and instead finding that they have to take a trip to the electronics store to purchase a digital receiver in the hope that they receive a clear over the air signal.
As the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communication, Technology, and the Internet, I have sought to place the interests of consumers at the center of our work. If both parties conclude that the best alternative to a negotiated agreement is to have screens go dark for consumers, then they will have neglected the core interests of the millions of households that subscribe to Time Warner Cable in affected markets. As leaders of major companies that are FCC licensees and are obligated to serve the public interest, I hope and expect that you will resolve this matter consistent with those obligations.
RBR-TVBR observation: Should this catastrophe take place, we have it on good authority that a tavern or two in Boston might be showing the games via a satellite provider. So, Senator Kerry might be able to find a place to watch his favorite team. Or, he could put rabbit ears on his digital TV (assuming he has one, or Santa brought him one for Christmas) and watch the over-the-air signal of WFXT-TV.