All quiet on the actual negotiations front: “Fox and Cablevision held a short phone call today,” Fox said. “No material progress was made and we remain far apart. Both sides agreed to continue talking tomorrow.” But in the public space and in Washington, the spat created a storm, with more and more politicians weighing in. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) today sent FCC chairman Julius Genachowski a copy of legislation he is drafting, which would mandate that retrans disputes be taken to a third party arbitrator and would put enough safe guards to prevent network blackouts in such disputes. In turn, Genachowski today issued his most sternly-worded statement on the issue yet, in which he said he called the CEOs of the two companies and urged them to negotiate in good faith and reach a deal, though he stopped short of getting the FCC to intervene as some have asked. “I am deeply troubled that Cablevision and Fox are spending more time attacking each other through ads and lobbyists than sitting down at the negotiating table,” Genachowski said. “The time for petty gamesmanship is over.”
That didn’t stop Cablevision and Fox from exchanging more PR salvos today, blaming each other for the standoff. Fox called Cablevision’s repeated appeals for binding arbitration “stunning hypocrisy,” pointing to a recent filing by the Cablevision family. According to Fox, the filing, made as part of Cablevision’s spat DISH Network over its MSG and MSG Plus channels, argued against using arbitration to resolve disputes. When Cablevision suggested that MSG would be open to binding arbitration with DISH or anyone else, Fox quickly fired back, accusing Cablevision of flip-flopping.