Cox: Cash Not Answer to Retrans Dilemma


Requiring TV stations -- especially stations owned by the "Big Four"
broadcast networks -- to accept only cash for their signals would not allay
cable-operator concerns about rising programming costs, Cox Communications Inc.
said in a Sept. 11 federal filing.

Cox, the No. 4 cable company, which saw its programming costs jump 12% last
year, told the Federal Communications Commission limiting station owners to cash
compensation -- and forcing them to stop linking carriage of TV stations to
carriage of their cable networks -- would do nothing to lessen the pressure on
rising retail cable rates.

"This approach, in essence, would amount to a double payment for the
networks' [owned-and-operated stations], since the networks would continue to
have their affiliated cable channels carried by the cable systems, and they also
would be receiving cash," Cox said in comments for the FCC's annual
cable-competition report for Congress.

Cox said it pays more than $1 billion annually to acquire programming. ESPN
(owned by The Walt Disney Co., owner of ABC) and Fox Sports Net (owned by News
Corp., owner of Fox) absorb 32 percent of all Cox programming costs while
attracting 8% of the viewing audience, the MSO added.

In its 23-page filing, Cox repeated allegations that ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox
"have abused the retransmission-consent process" by insisting that Cox and other
cable operators carry their cable networks in markets where the networks do not
own stations, leading to higher cable bills for programming services that cable
consumers may not want to watch.

"The cost of programming, especially sports programming, is rising at such a
rapid rate that, if left unchecked, a train wreck involving cable operators,
programmers and consumers seems sure to result," Cox said.