Retransmission-consent critic Public Knowledge is using the WABC/Cablevision stand-off in New York to renew its call for Washington to weigh in.
"It's a shame consumers are once again caught in the middle of a dispute between cable companies and TV broadcasters over the terms of popular programming being carried on cable systems," said Gigi Sohn, president of the D.C.-based fair use advocacy group.
Sohn similarly used the Fox/Time Warner Cable and Mediacom/Sinclair impasses late last year and early in 2010 to call for government-mandate interim carriage in the short term and review of the entire retransmission- consent regime in the long term.
"The previous dispute came right before the Super Bowl," said Sohn in a statement Wednesday. "Now, millions of viewers might miss the Oscars. It's an unfortunate situation in which the system is obviously broken."
WABC has threatened to pull its signal from Cablevision subscribers in the New York DMA at midnight, March 7, the day of its Oscar telecast, citing an inability to come to terms on payment for its signal.
In addition to mandatory interim carriage when negotiations break down and contracts expire, Sohn put in a plug for program unbundling, lifting restrictions on distant-signal importation, disclosure of contract terms and reasonable and non-discriminatory mandates for those contracts.