News Corp. alienates viewers in spat over fees

In the latest dispute over fees for television programming, the media conglomerate and a prominent cable provider have yet again put viewers in the middle.

In the latest dispute over fees for television programming, the media conglomerate and a prominent cable provider have yet again put viewers in the middle.

Three million households have been blacked out from Fox and MY9 programs after News Corp. and Cablevision could not agree on a price for retransmission.

It's hard to pick one side that comes out ahead in this mess. However, if a choice must be made, it would have to be Cablevision, which displayed its side of the argument in a clear, simple message.

Viewers that attempt to tune into Fox or MY9 get played a message from Cablevision that News Corp. is demanding more than $150 million for the new contract and it was not Cablevision's decision to pull the stations off the air.

In an attempt to leverage negotiations, Fox blocked Cablevision subscribers from watching content on Hulu for a short period of time. Users trying to access Fox shows were delivered the message: “We notice that you are attempting to access Fox content on Hulu. Unfortunately, this content is currently unavailable to Cablevision customers. We look forward to bringing Fox content to Cablevision customers again soon.”

In the midst of all the bickering, both News Corp. and Cablevision have lost sight of the real issue. Sports fans that missed the New York Giants game this past Sunday and MLB playoff games, as well as viewers of popular Fox television shows such as House and Glee, don't care about the money involved. They just want their programs returned.

News Corp. chose to further alienate consumers by attempting to shut down all access to its programming in a Big Brother-like fashion. It further drove home Cablevision's point that it was News Corp.'s decision to pull the stations off the air.

In an interview this week with WFAN's Mike Francesa, one of the country's most well-known sports-talk-radio hosts, Fox Television Stations president Dennis Swanson continued to push the public perception of the network further into the negative by avoiding Francesa's questioning on why News Corp. won't agree to binding arbitration and put an end to the whole situation. Going on the radio was at least a step in the right direction, but failing to use that forum to address the pertinent matters rendered it a moot gesture.

News Corp. should have taken the exact opposite approach if it was truly concerned about public perception throughout the ordeal. Keep viewers out of the argument and provide the free programming online as an option while negotiations are underway. Instead, it dried the paint on Cablevision's picture that customers simply don't matter to News Corp.; it's all about the money.

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