Altice’s 2-month-old WFSB blackout gets more government intervention

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A Connecticut state lawmaker has stepped in to try to end a two-month retrans battle that has kept CBS affiliate WFSB-TV off of Altice USA’s Optimum cable system.

Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, is spearheading a petition to have the FCC intervene in the impasse between Altice and station owner Meredith Corp.

“It’s time to end this; it’s incredibly unfair,” Slossberg told the New Haven Register. “What we have are two corporate giants arguing over pennies and the ones who get the squeezed are honest hard working people. For months now, people in Milford, Orange and Woodbridge have been paying a full rate for diminished cable service.”

RELATED: Altice pushing CBS All Access to Connecticut customers following Meredith blackout

For their part, neither side seemed too impressed by the specter of FCC intervention—a dynamic that rarely occurs, even in protracted program licensing disputes.

“We want to carry WFSB and we’ve made multiple offers of increasing value,” Altice spokeswoman Lisa Anselmo said. “But they continue to request an exorbitant amount.”

On Jan. 13, Meredith blacked out WFSB-TV on the erstwhile Cablevision, following the usual impasse over broadcast retransmission licensing fees.

Not even the pleas of two U.S. senators could restore WFSB-TV 3 to the screens of Altice customers in Litchfield and New Haven, Connecticut, in time for the Patriots’ playoff win over the Houston Texans the following Saturday.

Connecticut’s two Democratic U.S. senators, Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy, sent a letter addressed to both Meredith Corp. CEO Stephen Lacy and Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei.

“While we respect the private negotiations being conducted by Optimum and WFSB and make no representations as to the merits of either side’s position, we believe that the current impasse does a disservice to Connecticut families and we urge you to negotiate in good faith to bring an end to this blackout,” the Senators wrote.

“They have not negotiated in good faith, and have failed their customers. If they cannot solve their problems, we need to speak out and shame them into finally doing the right thing,” Slossberg said Wednesday. “Both sides have told me they will consider my request. In the meantime, I’m asking that WFSB be restored to the Optimum channel line up as a show of good faith to the people in my district.”