FNC, Ohio Op Are Talking

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Fox News Channel and Massillon Cable TV Inc. are trying to settle their contract dispute, which prompted the 24-hour news network to pull its signal off the Ohio cable system just over one week ago.

"We are discussing a proposal with them," Massillon Cable vice president Bob Gessner said. "We're trying to get a resolution to bring Fox News Channel to customers who want it."

Alleging that Massillon Cable hadn't met its benchmarks to roll out the network despite being paid $10-per-subscriber launch fees, FNC deauthorized its signal and dropped it off the MSO's two cable systems at around midnight March 31.

FNC also filed suit against the small MSO, claiming that the cable operator was contractually required to launch FNC to 90 percent of its subscribers. And the programmer ran a newspaper ad charging that Gessner had not "honored his agreement to carry Fox News Channel" and printing the operator's phone number.

Last week, Massillon Cable, with 42,000 subscribers, put a notice on the screen of FNC's now-vacant channel that told subscribers to contact FNC's lawyer and vice president of legal affairs, Dianne Brandi, by phone or e-mail. That message has now been removed.

FNC got more than 1,400 calls or e-mails, a spokesman for the network said, adding that the calls were positive and in favor of FNC.

Gessner said he didn't have a tally on the calls he got. But they "ran the gamut" from those who were disappointed that FNC was gone, to those who wanted to know what happened, to those who said, "Good, put something else there," he added.

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