By Councilman Lew Fidler
There they go again. They big boys are fighting and you know who is going to pay the bill.
Hopefully, by the time you read this, Fox and Cablevision will have settled their dispute and returned control of channels 5 and 9 to the viewing audience. Until then, Cablevision subscribers will have to do without many of our favorite programs, not to mention Giants’ football, the National League Championship playoffs and—perish the thought—the World Series. But even if the media giants manage to settle, the bill will be passed on to the little guy—the consumer.
Some folks may be old enough to remember when our neighborhood movie theaters—wait, do you even remember neighborhood movie theaters?—all posted signs that read “Stop pay TV” on their marquis. The newly burgeoning cable TV system response was that “pay TV”, now known as cable TV, was for enhanced service. But the 1992 Cable TV Act changed all that when broadcast stations were permitted to seek “retransmission fees.”
What is a “retransmission fee”? That is the fee that broadcast stations seek from cable providers to permit them to air the exact same content that broadcast networks provide over free public air space. Before the 1992 Act, when cable was used more generally to provide TV programming to areas that could not receive clear air signals, broadcasters relied on the “must carry” provision of the law, allowing broadcasters to actually compel cable providers to carry their content. How the worm has turned!