Cablevision-Fox II: Fox losing the perception game

When it comes to public perception, News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWSA) is trailing Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) in their ongoing retransmission cage match. The public perception that the broadcasters are money-grubbing bad guys could combine with weariness over never-ending depressing economic issues to affect more than just News Corp.'s Fox Networks; it could extend to the whole broadcast and cable industries.

New York City Council member Lew Fidler, for instance, wants retransmission fees eliminated altogether. "Broadcasters like Fox and ABC operate over the public airwave with a public license. Having seduced the majority of TV viewers off of the rabbit ears and onto the cable box, they should not be permitted to start to charge us for what once was free," Fidler wrote in the Brooklyn Heights Courier.

His opinion is not atypical, wrote Lacey Rose, of Forbes, pointing out that "The networks' current strategy-block programming while trading barbs with the cable operator in question-may do more harm than good" as consumers look elsewhere for entertainment. And, proving that money talks, she added, "the higher fees that will be passed down to already cash-strapped subscribers ... could end up pushing them away (from cable) forever."

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