California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein spoke out yesterday about Los Angeles without CBS programming. The Democrats sent a letter to CBS CEO Les Moonves and TWC chief Glenn Britt urging both sides to expedite an end to the dispute, now in its second week.
David Diaz spent 27 years as a reporter at WNBC/Channel 4 and WCBS/Channel 2. The TV news veteran, now a Distinguished Lecturer in Media and Politics at the City College of New York, provides some insight into the carriage stalemate.
“The power of the political establishment to weigh in because they’re hearing about it from their constituents and they know they can usually score some points by excoriating the big bad cable operators, and even the big networks,” Diaz tells Tuned In. “The more that enters the equation, there is definitely more pressure for them to settle.”
You can add Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey, a longtime opponent of the Federal Commission Communication while serving in the House of Representatives, to the chorus of those pushing the FCC to intervene.
For now, the Commission gave this statement to Tuned In.
“The Commission is disappointed that the respective parties could not reach a retransmission agreement. Our primary concern remains with consumers and viewers in the affected markets. We urge all parties involved to resolve this situation as soon as possible.”
Spokespersons for TWC and CBS refused to comment.
“That’s another pressure point,” Diaz says. “[When] another voice jumps in from that quarter of the political establishment, the more the conflict is expanded, the more that’s to the benefit of CBS.”
The media conglomerates have been quick to use the media to air their grievances.
“[TWC] basically portray themselves as the ‘little David,’ scuffing against this giant [CBS], when really it’s a battle amongst the titans anyway,” Diaz tells Tuned In. “This whole game is about who’s really the one screwing the little guy. That’s the way they play it. But in many ways, The titans [are] screwing the little guy.”
With TWC having the ultimate control to flip the switch on their cable boxes, Diaz contends they are the biggest loser, aside from the millions of viewers.
“Most people see the cable operator as the villain,” Diaz says.
These cable company/station blackouts because of money are seemingly an annual ritual, However, when an over-the-air broadcast outlet is removed, it’s still rare. Last year, it took Cablevision and Tribune two months for a deal to be made, keeping WPIX dark for the duration. For all the cable channels that customers can choose today, Diaz contends that feelings for the local station are generational.
“People relate to them, very often through the newscasts. People who are strong regular watchers of the local television outlets would be the most emotionally affected and habit-affected of all the people who watch television.”
Many of those people, Diaz (left) believes, are older who live alone.
Less habitual is the CBS-owned Showtime. A network spokesperson says TWC’s decision to pull the plug on the premium movie channel was “not only completely unnecessary, but totally punitive to our subscribers.”
Diaz opines, “I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the reason [TWC] did it.”
But the clock is ticking to get a deal completed before CBS rolls out the fall season next month. Diaz contends that the rush to a new contract likely isn’t as imminent for TWC.
“[CBS] is in the best position because of what they have, because it’s desired by the people who watch television,” Diaz says. “But at the same time, they also benefit to some degree by holding out and getting more money for their programming. It’s not about them paying higher fees. People forget a big part of this is the opposite, the stations want more money from the cable operator.”
With the fall season looming, pressure isn’t only mounting from politicians.
“The NFL is a big player in the TV drama, and they sure as hell want those games on TV,” Diaz says. “That’s another muscle on the CBS side.”