2005-05-04 / Features

‘It’s Time To Play Hardball’ With Cable Giants, Says Gianaris

by john toscano

Assemblymember Michael Gianaris with State Senator Martin J. Golden (D-Brooklyn) and various Mets fans.Assemblymember Michael Gianaris with State Senator Martin J. Golden (D-Brooklyn) and various Mets fans. Asserting, “It’s time to play hardball” with cable giants Time Warner and Cablevision, Assemblymember Michael Gianaris has introduced legislation that would impose severe financial penalties for each day that their ongoing dispute blacks out Mets games for 2.4 million New Yorkers.

Under Gianaris’ bill, a penalty of 10 cents per affected customer per day would be imposed on the battling cable companies, adding up to a $240,000 penalty each day. The funds would be returned to affected customers.

Projecting the penalty further, Gianaris (D–Astoria) computed that the total withheld for a month would be a combined $14.4 million, and should an entire six-month season go by without televised games, the combined total would reach $86.4 million.

Gianaris explained, “All proceeds of these payments would be returned to members of the public affected by the dispute in the form of discounts of approximately $6 on their monthly cable bills.”

A dyed-in-the-wool Mets fan, Gianaris lashed out at the parties responsible, saying:

“It’s time to play hardball with these cable giants to free the Mets and their fans from being held hostage in this dispute. While two corporate behemoths haggle over how to make another million dollars, the fans have literally been left in the dark. Mets fans are more excited about this year’s team than we’ve been in a long time.

“Unfortunately, selfish corporate interests are ruling the day and threatening to make this a lost season for millions of fans. If these corporations cannot behave responsibly, we will force them to do so.”

State Senator Martin Golden (R–C, Brooklyn), the bill’s other sponsor, said, “No Pedro, no Piazza, no Beltran, no Mets on Time Warner Cable unless we act quickly to pass this bill.”

Since opening day, some 2.4 million fans have been deprived of seeing the new look Mets on regional sports networks MSG and FSNY which, Gianaris said, are owned by Cablevision. The programming has been pulled from Time Warner Cable systems because of a dispute between the two companies over the cost of programming, the lawmaker said.

Closer to home, City Councilmember Tony Avella (D–Bayside), Zoning and Franchise Committee chairman, has been trying to apply pressure to get the dispute settled.

“Cable companies cannot continue to hold sports fans hostage in this dispute,” Avella, whose committee oversees issuance of franchises, such as those under which the cable companies operate, said.

He added, “I believe it would be in the best interest of all New Yorkers if Cablevision/MSG would accept Time Warner’s offer to allow them to air the games while negotiations are ongoing and they would make any agreement retroactive.”

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