The National Association of Broadcasters said last week
that Fox Broadcasting Co., CBS Broadcasting Inc. and its affiliates will delay enforcement
of a Miami court's preliminary injunction that had called for direct-broadcast
satellite providers to disconnect a number of distant-network subscribers by Oct. 8.
Instead, the broadcasters will give PrimeTime 24 until Jan.
1 to terminate service to illegal distant-network subscribers who signed up between March
11, 1997, and July 10 of this year.
In a conference call with reporters last Friday, Ben Ivan,
legal counsel for the NAB, denied that the delay in enforcing the injunction was designed
to keep Congress from feeling the brunt of consumer ire until after the next congressional
election this fall.
"Given the great amount of misinformation" that
was passed on to disenfranchised subscribers from PT24 and other satellite providers, Ivan
said, the broadcasters thought that it was important to give consumers additional time to
find other options for receiving their local-network signals, such as off-air antennae or
lifeline cable subscriptions.
CBS and Fox also filed a petition with the Southern
District Court of Florida last Thursday, asking the court to require PT24 to give
customers at least 45 days' notice before terminating distant-network service.
At the same time, PT24 "should give its customers
truthful information about the options available to them to obtain network programming
from local stations," the filing said.
The plaintiffs also asked that PT24 be required to provide
local-network affiliates with the names of any customers to be terminated, so that the
stations can decide in advance whether to waive their rights for certain households.
"Viewers whose service is terminated frequently become
angry at their local-network station and threaten never to watch the station again,"
the filing said.