ABC goes dark for New York Cablevision subscribers

By Cecilia Kang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 7, 2010; 3:41 PM

Cablevision and Walt Disney appear to be heading back to the negotiating table, hours before the Academy Awards broadcast begins and is missed by three million subscribers in the New York area.

Cablevision said in a statement that it is willing to restart negotiations with a third-party arbitrator to resolve its dispute with Walt Disney over transmission fees to carry WABC-7, the ABC station serving New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut. It urged ABC, meanwhile, to bring back its signal to Cablevision's 3.1 million viewers ahead of one of the year's most popular shows, the Oscars.

"Given the extraordinary public interest in this matter, Senator (John) Kerry and other public officials have suggested that arbitration is appropriate in this highly unusual situation," said Charles Schueler, Cablevision's executive vice president of communications. "Cablevision will agree to binding arbitration and calls upon Disney CEO Bob Iger to immediately return ABC to New YOrk area viewers and join us in binding arbitration to resolve this matter fairly."

He said the cable company has talked to the "highest levels" of the FCC and urged the agency's involvement in the process.

ABC said in a statement that it has separately put forth a counter offer Sunday afternoon to try to resolve the dispute that has drawn angry criticism by viewers, lawmakers and the Federal Communications Commission.

Walt Disney, the parent company of ABC, has not responded to Cablevision's request for binding arbitration.

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