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Lawmaker proposes bill cut during cable disputes

Daniel O’Donnell, D-New York City, is pictured.

By JOHN WHITTAKER

jwhittaker@post-journal.com

Spectrum customers who didn’t have Walt Disney Co. channels available for more than a week in early September won’t see a break on their cable bills.

Assenblyman Daniel O’Donnell, D-New York City, wants that to change for the cable company’s New York customers. O’Donnell recently introduced A.8047 in the state Assembly to amend the state Public Service Law to prohibit cable television companies from collecting payment when there is an unsolicited reduction in a customer’s service — such as channels disappearing because of a dispute.

“Although cable television customers contract for cable service with providers based on a specific list of television channels that they expect to have access to, cable television companies have often decreased the number of channels they offer while continuing to charge the same amount,” O’Donnell wrote in his legislative justification. “Whether a single channel or a group of channels is removed, cable television companies should no longer be entitled to bill their customers if the cable television company is not providing the service that the customers are paying to receive. This legislation aims to safeguard consumers against this unfair practice of gradual price-creep and reduced services. Rather, this legislation allows both parties to agree on a clear price based on a defined set of channels or services and prohibits charges that do not conform to that agreement.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul said in mid-September her office would work on getting refunds for the estimated 1.5 million families in New York who lost the Disney stations during the dispute. The dispute between Disney and Charter Communications Inc. resulted in ESPN, ABC, FX, National Geographic and Disney-branded stations going abruptly dark on Thursday night for Charter’s Spectrum TV subscribers. ABC-TV was also cut in seven markets, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

“In addition to these unknowns, the larger issues around the viability of the traditional pay TV bundle and the challenges in monetizing streaming media will continue to haunt the industry as it navigates the transition from linear to digital,” Paul Verna, principal analyst at Insider Intelligence told the Associated Press. “Other carriage disputes are inevitable, and they will again raise these unresolved questions for media owners and distributors.”

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