THE BLOG
08/09/2013 10:32 am ET Updated Oct 09, 2013

'Let Them Use Rabbit Ears': Viewers Held Hostage: CBS/Time Warner Cable City Hall Hearings

In careless disregard for millions of paying customers held hostage by Time Warner Cable's recent blackout of CBS and Showtime programming, the two media giants are duking it out in a corporate donnybrook over transmission fees, effectively depriving New York, Los Angeles and Dallas markets of their favorite programs... and if that wasn't bad enough, using the 'negotiating' chip of blacking out CBS.com (a free service) as a final insult to innocent viewers who don't have access to cable or premium channels in the first place.

Last week I watched every episode of Homeland and Ray Donovan in anticipation of the threatened blackout... and just when I was good and hooked, this blue Time Warner Cable card appeared on my screen declaring CBS to be dirty rotten, greedy, scoundrels.

So it was with righteous indignation that I attended the New York City Council oversight hearings Thursday, called by speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn in the majestic City Hall chambers. Councilman Dan Garodnick chaired as Martin Franks (executive vice president of planning, policy and government affairs for the CBS corporation) and Rory Whelan (Time Warner Cable's regional vice president of government relations) testified, with "$500 an hour suits" in tow... but the real star of the show was the apoplectic city council Member Lewis A. Fidler.

Reminiscent of Howard Beale in Network, I urge you to watch the video below. For all of you who are fed up with the corporate greed and the 1 percent screwing the other 99. For all of you who are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore, but can only throw things at your blank TV screen... I give you, assistant majority Leader, City Councilman, Lewis A Fidler:

The sole purpose of this hearing is for you to understand just how angry your customers are... Not one of you gives a damn about the consumer, not one of you. You care about the bottom line... both of you. Shame on all of you... There is something wrong with all of you. And you want to charge a la carte? Every time I want to watch the Big Bang Theory I have to put 50 cents into the pot?... No one has rabbit ears anymore!

One independent source suggested that CBS was asking $2 when they previously charged $.80 in transmission fees and in childish retribution, Time Warner yanked not only CBS but Showtime to millions of subscribers just when the new season of the wildly successful and addictive Homeland was to begin. When pressed by Chairman Garodnick why CBS.com was also pulled, he was told by Rory Whelan it was so they would have a better "negotiating chip!"

The hubris was palpable.

Speaker Quinn suggested it was tantamount to blackmail as the U.S. Open. The PGA Championships, not to mention football and the new season of Homeland, loomed, but she reminded, "Both CBS and Time Warner Cable benefit tremendously from the privileges granted to them by federal, state and local governments, and Time Warner Cable relies on local franchise agreements all over the country to gain access to millions of customers" and they had "a responsibility to their customers, shareholders as well as the public."

By Martin Franks' own admission, "CBS makes 30 percent profit," which translates into billions on advertising dollars, and Time Warner Cable makes billions on subscriptions. He admitted that the two media giants were equivalent in their profits. And it was pointed out by councilman Fidler, if fees were hiked in their secret negotiations, you can bet your bottom dollar it would be reflected in his cable bill!

After four hours of 'We're the good guys and they're the bad guys," It looked to me like I was never going to see Ray Donovan again, and I got a glimpse into why Washington is so broken.

Many New Yorkers like me are with Time Warner Cable for one thing: NY1. I for one, wouldn't know how to dress in the morning without it, and lord knows, I would miss Mr. Whipple's eyebrows.