Polka Backs Binding Arbitration For Cablevision, Fox

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Small-system cable lobbyist Matt Polka urged the FCC to order binding arbitration and immediate restoration of Fox TV stations to Cablevision Systems.

Polka, president of the American Cable Association (which for years has been lobbying for retransmission-consent rules changes at the Federal Communications Commission), said he backed Cablevision's call for binding arbitration in the dispute.

Cablevision and Fox can't agree on compensation for three TV stations, notably two Fox-owned affiliates. The stations and three cable channels came off Cablevision on Oct. 16. Fox coverage of Major League Baseball's World Series starts tonight.

Polka's strongly worded statement concludes that "the FCC needs to protect the public from rank bad actors like Fox who believe the FCC will not step in and stop them from shaking down cable customers. Until broadcasters' misconduct is dealt with squarely by the FCC, no one should be surprised to see TV stations across the country exploit a blackmail-or-blackout strategy patented in Fox's executive suite."

The commission asked the two companies to demonstrate that they have bargained in good faith. FCC officials (including commissioner Robert McDowell this past June) have observed that the commission's role is to ensure that bargaining proceeds in good faith, not to direct any outcome.

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